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A Fantasy
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Revision 1.
The Island at the Axis of the World Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION .....................................................................1
Experience and Levels. ..................................................................... ii
Wherein It Begins. .............................................................................1
BACKGROUND ...................................................................................... 1
The Duchess ............................................................................................ 1
Adapting the Adventure. ....................................................................1
NPC Roster........................................................................................2
Axis Island. ............................................................................................. 2
ADVENTURE OVERVIEW ......................................................................... 2
ADVENTURE LAYOUT ............................................................................ 3
REWARDS............................................................................................ 3
AND A FINAL WORD, BEFORE WE START... ............................................... 3
Skyseer Vision. ..................................................................................4
ACT ONE: THE R.N.S. COALTONGUE.....................................4
SET-UP .............................................................................................. 4
Assassination Plot. .............................................................................4
LAUNCH PARTY .................................................................................... 4
CROWD SECURITY ................................................................................ 5
Skills and Non-Combat Encounters. ..................................................5
DOCKER BRAWL ................................................................................... 7
Taking Prisoners. ...............................................................................8
LONG NIGHT AHEAD ............................................................................. 9
THE CROWD ....................................................................................... 9
Early Discovery. ...............................................................................10
KINGS ARRIVAL ..................................................................................10
ALL ABOARD ......................................................................................11
A SIMPLE FAVOR..................................................................................11
Rusting Antenna. .............................................................................12
The Duchess and Beshela. ...............................................................12
THE SABOTAGE ...................................................................................12
Steps of Sabotage. ...................................................................................13
Chases and Slow PCs. ......................................................................13
Ship Layout. ....................................................................................14
Boiling Point. ........................................................................................15
AFTERMATH .......................................................................................16
Debriefng. .............................................................................................17
The Kings Speech. ..................................................................................17
Whats Next for the Constables? ..............................................................17
ACT TWO: THREE TOWERS ................................................. 18
THREE TOWERS ..................................................................................18
The Mission. ..........................................................................................19
About Axis Island. ...........................................................................20
THE R.N.S. IMPOSSIBLE ......................................................................21
Infltrators .............................................................................................21
Infltrator Stats.................................................................................22
Quitting Early? ................................................................................22
SEA TUNNEL.......................................................................................22
GENIUS LOCI ......................................................................................22
Taking Prisoners. .............................................................................24
ISLAND MYSTERIES ..............................................................................25
Road Trek. .............................................................................................25
What Is this Place? ...........................................................................25
Wilderness Trek. ................................................................................... 26
Optional Encounters. ............................................................................ 26
AXIS FORTRESS .................................................................................. 26
Fortress Layout. .................................................................................... 26
Fantasy Defenses. .................................................................................. 27
What's She Up To? ..........................................................................27
Fortress Security. .............................................................................28
Moving About the Fortress. .................................................................... 28
THE SEA GATE .................................................................................. 29
Methods of Approach .............................................................................. 29
Set-Up. .................................................................................................. 30
Tactics. ................................................................................................. 30
HOLD THE LIGHTHOUSE .......................................................................31
For All the Wargamers Out There. ...................................................31
Smaller or Larger Parties. .................................................................32
Hold the Lighthouse. .......................................................................33
ACT THREE: UNDER THE WHEEL OF STARS ......................34
THE ASSAULT .................................................................................... 34
THE DREADNOUGHT ............................................................................35
BRIG AND BELLIGERENCE ..................................................................... 36
IMMUREMENT .....................................................................................37
THE LABYRINTH OF GILLIE DHU ............................................................37
THE TRIO ..........................................................................................38
High Level Equipment. ....................................................................40
AFTERMATH .......................................................................................41
Prisoners, Punishments, and Pardons. .............................................42
CONCLUSION ...................................................................................... 42
NPC Quick Reference for GMs. ........................................................42
Dramatis Personae. ......................................................................... 43
Hold the Lighthouse. ...................................................................... 44
The Assault. ....................................................................................45
Experience and Levels.
As the frst adventure of the ZEITGEIST adventure path, The Island at the
Axis of the World assumes the party is made up of four to fve 1st-level
PCs. Unlike many other adventure paths, the ZEITGEIST adventure path does
not assume GMs will track individual experience points, but instead it
assumes the GM will level the PCs at appropriate times. For GMs interested
in using these modules outside of the full adventure path, experience
point information is included in combat encounters.
This adventure and all subsequent modules in the series assume that
PCs will level up at pre-determined points, with such points being explicitly
mentioned in the adventure. In the case of this adventure, the PCs will not
advance to 2nd level until the end of the adventure, in preparation for
Adventure Two: The Dying Skyseer.
Wherein It Begins.
elcome to the first adventure in the Zeit-
geist adventure path. In this adventure the party
will save Risurs king from an assassination attempt, track
down the traitor responsible, and play a key role in the
confict between Risurs old allies the fey Unseen Court,
and its traditional enemy, the industrial nation of Danor.
By the adventures end, the PCs will have earned the
respect of their king, which will place them in a position
to tackle ever-greater threats to Risur. Theyll also have
stumbled upon the slightest hints of the grander con-
spiracy that drives the events of the campaign.
Before you run this adventure youll want to be familiar
with all the material herein, but especially the Introduc-
tion. Additionally, weve provided a Dramatis Personae
hand-out, which you can give to the players at the start
of the adventure. The players hand-out presents illus-
trations and brief descriptions of NPCs the party would
already know about at the start of the adventure. We
intend to include updated versions of the Dramatis
Personae with each further adventure, to provide the
players an easy visual reminder of whom theyve met.
Youll need to update this list based on your players ac-
tions, or if you make changes of your own to the NPCs.
Risur and Danor have been at war on-and-of for two centuries for
control of the lush Yerasol Archipelago that lies between them. The cur-
rent ruler of Risur, King Aodhan, was just a common soldier during in
the Third Yerasol War, which ended forty years ago. He captured terri-
tory for Risur, earned the respect of the military and the adulation of the
common people, and even seized control of Danors frst steam-powered
warship. People of Flint still talk about the day when he single-handedly
steered the ship into Flints harbor as a spoil of war.
The king of the time chose Aodhan as his successor, and in the four
decades since Risur has gone from owning a single captured steam
engine to having an industrial revolution of its own. Today it prepares
to launch its frst armored warship to solely use steam propulsion: the
R.N.S. Coaltongue, named after a mythic warlord said to breathe smoke
and fre.
King Aodhan has come to Flint from Risurs capitol to witness the
ships launch. However the kings own sister, Duchess Ethelyn of Shale,
plots to kill her brother during the maiden voyage of the Coaltongue so
she can lay claim to the throne, abandon industry, and restore Risur to
its traditional values.
The Duchess
During the Fourth Yerasol War, which ended seven years ago, Duch-
ess Ethelyn governed the city of Shale, Risurs bulwark against Danor.
But the king insisted the duchess force her military, that consisted of
traditional druid- and shaman-backed units to start using frearms and
cannons. Burdened with the unfamiliar new technology, the duchess
lost nearly every battle for control of the archipelago.
Bitter for years over the defeat, the duchess recently learned that the
king plans to press for peace with Danor. Fearing what could happen,
she consulted a skyseerone of Risurs folk prophetsfor guidance,
and he told her of a vision:
A globe spins on its axis, and a steel ship sets of to war on a sail
of shadows. The world passes into night, and blackness grips all of
Risur as the stars fall from the sky. The kings eyes turn a soulless
white, and he moves as a puppet, his strings pulled by a man who has
already died a thousand times.
Adapting the
This adventure assumes the PCs are agents of the Royal Homeland
Constabulary. If your players are free agents, however, they might be
attending the launch of the Coaltongue as guests of Captain Rutger Smith,
or bodyguards of the tiefing engineer Mr. Massarde. One of the PCs might
even be a minor noble. If a PC is a Yerasol Veteran, the party might have
been invited to help sell the idea of the warship to the public.
Compared to modern Earth, the concept of security is slightly different
in Risur, where the king is able to defend himself even in his seventies,
so PCs will be allowed to carry weapons, though theyll get thoroughly
checked by the actual constables before theyre allowed on the pier.
The Island at the Axis of the World Introduction
The duchess tried to warn her brother of the danger, to convince him
to return to the old ways. She tried to remind him of when they both
were just commoners, so he would pay more heed to the sufering of
workers in the industrial warrens of Flint. But the king was too intent on
achieving peace in his life, and did not listen.
Desperate, the duchess spoke with the liaison of the Unseen Court, a
powerful high elf warrior named Asrabey Varal. He told her the Court
would view Risur as an enemy if it made an alliance with Danor. The
duchess decided she would rather betray her brother than her nations
history, and so she began to plan his downfall.
Axis Island.
A year ago, some of the duchesss spies contacted one Nathan Jierre.
Nathan works as an astronomer on Danor-controlled Axis Island, the
eastern-most point in the Yerasol Archipelago. Nathan saw that the is-
lands factories and shipyards were producing weapons and warships,
and so he began leaking information to the duchess. He expected she
would use the information to encourage Risur to keep pace with Danors
military, and thus ensure neither side would be in a position to start a
new war.
The duchess plans to assassinate her brother during the launch of the
Coaltongue, lay the blame on Danor, then attack Axis Island and reclaim
it as Risuri territory. She believes that once she shows proof to her people
that Danor was building new weapons of war, shell be able to secure her
claim to the throne and steer Risur in the right direction.
Adventure Overview
The party is assigned to work security at the launching of the
Coaltongue. The adventure starts after they have already done all the
boring work of preparation and canvassing, so now their mission is to
ensure the dignitaries safety during the ships brief maiden voyage.
As the sun sets the ship weighs anchor, and the PCs are sent to make
sure Duchess Ethelyn attends a speech by the king. When they check on
her, they fnd she has fed, and that her handmaiden is leading a plot to
sabotage the engine. Right as a naval band starts to play Risurs national
anthem and launch freworks, a desperate chase and fght develops
belowdecks. The PCs have to stop the assassins before they cause the
steam engine boiler to explode, annihilating anything nearby with fre
and a hail of shrapnel.
In the aftermath, the party receives accolades for saving the king.
Hundreds of miles away armies prepare for a potential civil war. Then a
week later the party is called to meet with tiefing Lya Jierre, the Dano-
ran Minister of Outsiders.
She explains that the duchess has attacked Danoran territoryAxis
Islandand has kidnapped her cousin Nathan Jierre. She has agreed to
let Risur handle the task of removing the duchess, and she quickly briefs
the PCs on the oddities and dangers of the island.
The PCs are just supposed to accompany and assist more experienced
infltrators, who will create an opening for the Risuri assault feet. But
when an accident kills the infltration team, the PCs are the only ones
in position to fnish the mission. Their ultimate goal is a sea gate which
protects the entrance to the fortresss harbor. By stealth, trickery, or
open assault, the PCs reach the lighthouse that houses the sea gate con-
trols, open the gate, and signal the feet to attack.
At this point they may think theyre out of harms way, content to let
the military take control of the fortress and capture the duchess. But the
high elf liaison of the Unseen Court, Asrabey Varal, has stowed away on
a Risuri ship, and the PCs spot him as he heads for the duchess, killing
anyone on either side who gets in his way.
Asrabey has come under orders from the Unseen Court to execute the
duchess. In their fey logic, that will prove that they did not endorse the
duchesss assassination attempt, and it doesnt matter how many rank
and fle soldiers they had to slaughter in the process. The PCs have a
chance to intercede, and they can decide the duchesss fate, as well as
whether Asrabey takes Nathan Jierre as a hostage. The partys actions
here will have rippling consequences throughout the rest of the cam-
Once Asrabey is dealt with, the PCs have only a few hours before Risur
has to hand control back over to Danor. They can collect a few enigmatic
clues to what Danor was up to, but then, as the highest-ranking repre-
sentatives of the RHC, they are responsible for the ofcial hand-of. Lya
Jierre arrives, thanks the party for their help, and casually mentions that
shed like to invite them to her wedding next year, since she is the Dano-
ran woman the king plans to marry for his peace treaty.
The PCs leave the island, but they have met many powerful individu-
als who will be enemies or allies later on, and they have the frst clues
toward a mystery that will forever change the world.
NPC Roster.
Because of the large number of NPCs the party will meet, weve compiled
two hand-outs to help you keep track of their various statuses, mannerisms,
and role in the adventure. A GM handout lists keywords and traits to help
you portray the NPCs, while a player handout will help the players keep
track of whom theyve met. More detailed entries are included throughout
the adventure close to the characters frst appearances.
NPC Entry Page
Thames Grimsley 5
Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft 9
Principal Minister Harkover Lee 9
Duchess Ethelyn of Shale 10
Sokana Rell 10
Geoff Masarde 11
Captain Rutger Smith 11
City Governor Roland Stanfeld 11
King Aodhan 11
Minister of Outsiders Lya Jierre 18
Nicolas Dupiers 25
Asrabey Varal 34
Lieutenant Hessar Marseine 36
Nathan Jierre 39
Recurring Characters. Stover Delft, Harkover Lee, Rutger Smith,
Governor Stanfeld, King Aodhan, Lya Jierre, and Asrabey Varal all play
prominent roles in later adventures. All other NPCs that appear in this
adventure might recur in minor roles, but feel free to do with them as
you wish. If anyone important dies, you can replace them with someone
thematically similar.
The Island at the Axis of the World Introduction
Adventure Layout
In each act we present a quick overview of the situation and the partys
goals. Then we detail individual scenes that are likely to occur. Each
scene is presented in a format of Title, tag-line, and keywords. Key-
words include:
Scene Type: Action, Exploration, Exposition, Puzzle, Social, or
Duration: Montage (a few hours or days), Real-time (a few minutes),
or Tactical (round-by-round).
The actions of your players may take things in unusual directions, so
dont feel constrained to only using these scenes. Change or drop them
as necessary, or add new ones if you think it will add to your groups
At the end of this adventure, the PCs should be 2nd level. Their Pres-
tige should remain at 1 for all groups (or drop to 0 with Risur if they
screw up). See the Players Guide for details of the Prestige system, and
how the PCs can use it to request items.
After the PCs receive their orders to go to Axis Island, they each
receive 1,000 gp that they can use to buy equipment and magic items.
Remember, PCs who are part of the RHC do not get to keep anything
they recover on their missions. They get a salary, and anything they
looted they can keep if they pay for it from their salary.
If the PCs are free agents instead of members of the RHC, instead
have the Constabulary ofer to pay them 300 gp apiece to undertake
the mission to Axis Island. The RHC asks the PCs to hand over As-
rabey Varals sword, shield, and cloak because they have diplomatic
valueplus his more mundane armor, amulet, and belt, because they
are well above the partys pay grade. But the party can keep other items
they fnd, such as the three Golden Icons in the Genius Loci encounter,
or Asrabeys slippers of spider climbing.
And A Final Word, Before
We Start...
Everything in this adventure and the whole campaign is just a sugges-
tion. Only you and your players know whats fun for your group, so feel
free to change characters, settings, events, and tone if you think it will
lead to a better gaming experience. You dont have to think the same way
we do (at least not until the Obscurati complete their grand plan).
The City of Flint.
Act One: The
R.N.S. Coaltongue
Assassination Plot.
in the evening, after the Coaltongue is launched and has set out for
a party on the open water. The duchess and her handmaiden Sokana
would retire to an aft room on the ships gundeck, supposedly for the
duchess to nap. There theyd link up with three other saboteurs on the
shipa halfing assassin posing as a cook and two human engineers
who came to the launch ceremony as servants of other nobles unaware
of the plot.
At sunset, as the ship weighs anchor, the duchess will use all her
magical power to call upon an archfey of the sea: Beshela, servant of
the fey titan known as She Who Writhes. The archfey will subtly inhibit
teleportation so that the king cannot teleport to safety. Then the duchess
will use a scroll of water breathing on herself and her allies. Meanwhile,
Sokana is given an elemental gem by duchess for use in the boiler room.
Shortly after sunset, nearly all the crew will assemble on deck with
musical instruments, forming a military band to play Risurs national
anthem. With only a skeleton crew below decks, the assassin and two
engineers will head to the magazine and engine room, where they will
kill the guards and crew. The assassin will return to the duchess to
report that the lower decks are clear, at which point the duchess will
exit out the window, calling upon Beshala to carry her to safety.
The engineers begin to sabotage the boiler. The halfing will head
down to the magazine to remove fre wards while Sokana goes to the
engine room. Shell place the elemental gem in the engines furnace,
summoning a fre elemental to heat up the boiler. After summoning the
elemental, Sokana will rust the door shut, while the engineers empty
the fuel bin and pile the fregems around the furnace, causing it to
rapidly heat up. The group then heads back to the duchesss room and
dive out the window.
By timing the sabotage to coincide with the blaring music of the
national anthem, the duchess hopes people on deck wont notice
that steam has stopped coming out of the ships stacks. The engineers
sabotage will ensure that no warnings alert the crew on the bridge.
As the three-minute anthem reaches its fnal crescendo, the
build-up of pressure will cause a boiler explosion. The shockwave
of the steam blast will shatter and ignite the fregem fuel, which will
send forth waves of fre through the ships lower decks. These will in
turn detonate the fredust in the ships magazine, and the resultant
explosion will tear the ship apart and kill anyone within a hundred feet
with concussion, shrapnel, and inferno.
In this act, the party handles security during the launch of Risurs
newest warship, and thwarts an explosive assassination plot.
Before launching the frst scene of the campaign, give the players a
chance to familiarize themselves with each others characters, since
theyre part of the same unit in the Constabulary and have likely been
working together at least a few weeks. You may want to give the players a
copy of the Dramatis Personae hand-out, to help them keep track of the
characters theyll be dealing with, and have a copy of the Ship Layout
hand-out (page 14) to show them once they board.
Launch Party
The PCs keep an eye out for trouble before dignitaries arrive for the
launch of Risurs new warship.
Read or paraphrase the following to your players.
It is spring of the year 500 A.O.V. (After Our Victory). Seven years after the end
of the Fourth Yerasol War, the shipyards in Flint have completed the frst Risuri
warship powered solely by steam engine, not sail. Your monarch, King Aodhan,
has come to Flint to witness the offcial launch of this mighty vessel. Wooden-
hulled but with a heart and skin of iron, the Royal Naval Ship Coaltongue will act
as a deterrent against future aggression from Risurs enemy across the sea, the
nation of Danor.
The Royal Homeland Constabulary has been called upon to provide security,
and you have spent the past several weeks working to make sure this event goes
off without a hitchcanvassing the docks, performing background checks on
the guest list, coordinating with the local police to set up a perimeter around the
royal docks, and following various directives of your superiors.
Now, as a warm breeze off the sea mingles the scents of elaborate foral
decorations with the pervasive coal soot that always hovers over Flint, youre at
the frst of two checkpoints, working with Flint police to let in a crowd of local
citizens who just want to line the streets and cheer their king.
Skyseer Vision.
If any PC has the Skyseer theme feat, mention that last night he had
a vision of a crowd, a purple ribbon, the Beran city Seobriga, an empty
bed, a broken tin whistle, and a girl with a lisp singing the Risuri royal
The PC gets a +2 bonus on checks toward the third goal of this challenge,
and if he shares his vision with the other PCs, so do they. When the PCs
start looking for suspects, they fnd squat Coulton drinking from a fask
near a tree with a purple ribbon wrapped around it. Lanky Mercliffe
stands outside a mapmakers shop reading a map of Ber in the window.
Scummy Iscalio glowers at a young girl trying to sing the royal anthem. The
rest of the vision pertains to other threats throughout the day.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
Crowd Security
Social. Real-Time.
A crowd of hundreds wait at a security checkpoint. In half an hour
theyll line up along streets to cheer the kings arrival, and you must make
sure no one dangerous gets through.
To set the tone for the campaign, the frst encounter is a quick inves-
tigation. Thousands of visitors have poured into the city, hoping to see
the king. Theyve gathered in Royal Square, on the mainland side of a
bridge that leads to the Royal Shipyard. The police are counting of ex-
actly seven hundred people who will be let onto the bridge and into Fleet
Square on the shipyard island so that they can cheer as the carriages of
the king and other dignitaries arrive.
Four dockersCoulton, Merclife, Iscalio, and a war vet named Daft-
onhave come to the event, ready to cause some trouble. Theyre angry
that the city police force has been cracking down on docker gatherings;
indeed, all of them but Dafton still have bruises from a scufe earlier in
the week. Mostly they just intend to heckle and shout insults, but Dafton
plans a more dramatic gesture: he wants to assault Governor Stanfeld.
Meanwhile Thames Grimsley, a grizzled sailor who is trying to or-
ganize an ofcial dockers guild, has caught wind of the mens plan, and
hes trying to get to them before they get themselves arrested or worse.
The four dockers are spread throughout Royal Square, waiting for the
cops to fnish their count before they link back up. Once the cops reach
seven hundred, theyll let the whole crowd through the check point and
onto the bridge. The PCs have about half an hour to survey the crowd
for possible threats and spot the dockers. If they fail, Thames Grimsley
arrives just after the parade crowd is let in. The police wont let him pass,
but if the PCs investigate, Grimsley might be willing to help them.
If the PCs are lucky, they can pull the dockers aside early and avert a
crisis, but once the crowd gets sent in, the four men will link up, making
it much harder to deal with them without a brawl.
Find the Dockers (CR 1 Skill Encounter).
Key Skills: Bluf, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (History or Lo-
cal), Perception, Profession (Soldier) Sense Motive, Stealth
Difculty: Unless otherwise noted, all skill checks are DC 15.
This encounter has four goals, requiring a total of eight successful
skill checks to get a full victory, and six or seven for a partial victory.
The party has half an hour to accomplish these goals, and they cannot
progress to the next goal until they have succeeded the current goal.
Goal One: Brief the Party and Police. 1 success.
Goal Two: Canvass the Crowd. 4 successes (5 total).
Goal Three: Find the Dockers. 2 successes (7 total).
Goal Four: Find the Fourth Man. 1 success (8 total).
Passage of Time.
Every ten minutes of the encounter is one round, and each PC can
make one skill check per round. All told, a fve-person party will get to
attempt ffteen skill checks during the half hour, and they need a total of
eight successes.
In the frst ten-minute round, the crowd waits idly and people chatter
amicably. In the second round, half a dozen messengers hand out lyric
sheets of the royal anthem, to make sure people get the later verses cor-
rect. In the third round, excitement builds as people press toward the
ropes, and various unsynchronized groups start singing the anthem or
other festive sounds.
After the third round, the impatient crowd will go through the check-
point. If the PCs dont want to let them, the small contingent of police
they have are insufcient to hold back so many. Only something drastic
will get the crowd to stop, but since the whole point of the PCs assign-
ment is to avoid ruining the event, doing so will lessen the PCs clout.
Later in the evening when real threats crop up, people might not believe
the party at frst.
Accomplishing Goals.
Each goal requires one or more successful skill checks, and we sug-
gest the skills best suited to each goal (as listed under Key Skills). If
a player thinks of a clever way to achieve the goal, let them use another
skill, or if its sufciently clever just grant them an automatic success.
Skills and Non-
Combat Encounters.
The ZEITGEIST adventure path uses a broad mix of combat and non-combat
encounters, with a heavy focus on investigation and exploration. While
you can certainly just roleplay the scene and call for the occasional skill
check, we try to provide a mechanical structure that gives the characters
a reasonable challenge and helps them feel like they have control of their
efforts, without slowing the game down and forcing the GM to roleplay
dozens of insignifcant NPCs as the party investigates suspects.
Normally these skill-based encounters let each PC make one skill check
per round, though a round could represent 6 seconds, ten minutes, or
even a week of work, depending on the encounter. Successful checks
will yield information, provide access to new options, and eventually
accomplish goals. The party typically has some sort of time constraint, and
if the party doesnt achieve their goal in time, they might fail or only get a
partial victory.
These encounters can occasionally occur as a montage, and we will
generally avoid springing ambushes on the party, since it will make sense
to split up and deploy the characters best suited to various tasks. Most of
these encounters call for a diverse skillset among the party, but parties
who focus on certain skills will be rewarded with easy victories in some
encounters, while parties who neglect their skills and focus only on raw
combat prowess will have a harder time. Failing these encounters will
never produce absolute dead-ends, but enough failures will leave the
party in a tough spot.
A grizzled sailor, still with a full head of hair
in his early 50s, Grimsley acts as head of a
nascent dock workers guild in Flint. Though he
only worked the docks in his youth, Grimsley
spent decades sailingprimarily as captain of
a ferry service in Flints harbor, but with a stint
in the navy during the last Yerasol War. He took
a gash from a policemans knife on the side of
his face in the last big docker riot, and since
then has tried to organize a unifed front for the
dockers concerns. A couple of months working
at a theater as a child gave him a very stylized
public speaking voice, one full of unnecessary,
melodramatic pauses.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
Note that some things certainly wont help, like using Spellcraft to sense
for magical threats, since there arent any here. You might nudge the play-
ers in the right direction if they start wasting their actions like this. Failing
a check doesnt have a penalty, but remember the party is on a clock.
Goal One: Brief the Party and Police.
You cant just question the whole crowd. You need a clear idea of what
appearances or mannerisms might be clues that someones a threat.
In their preparation for todays event, the Royal Homeland Constabu-
lary determined that four groups in particular are likely to cause trouble.
The fastest way for the PCs to search for threats is to fgure out who in
this crowd of seven hundred people ft any of these profles:
Dockers, angry because of how the city treats them.
Primalistsi.e., believers in the old druidic faithangry at all the *
new industry.
Agents of the fey terrorist known as Gale, who might try to
sabotage the ship.
War veterans, who might target the ships tiefing designer.
Create a Threat Profle. (Knowledge (History or Local) or Profes-
sion (Soldier), DC 13) To be able to brief the police and the rest of the
party, a PC needs to have a clear sense of the diferent threats. A PC who
attempts this check get a +2 bonus to this check if any member of the
party has the Docker theme feat, and another +2 bonus if anyone has the
Yerasol Veteran theme feat.
Once any PC makes a successful check, give the party the following
Dockers are usually burly working men with eclectic fashion. Primal-
ists have particular hairstyles, wear sandals, and adorn themselves with
druidic religious icons. Fey saboteurs are typically elves or half-elves
with impeccable grooming from their rituals, though they often try to
hide this by dressing in soot-stained clothes. War veterans will usually
be either in the mid- to late-twenties, or late-ffties/early-sixties, usually
in better fghting shape than common citizens.
Goal Two: Canvass the Crowd.
You have to look for possible threats out of hundreds of men, women,
and scampering children. Work together and with the police to canvas the
whole crowd.
The crowd can be roughly divided into four quadrants. To search the
whole thing for people matching the above profles, the party has to suc-
ceed a total of four checks, but they can do that with any combination of
the following methods (or creative ideas of their own). If you have four
PCs skilled at Perception, they might all just hang back, but most likely
the party will use a combination of skills.
Mingle with the Crowd. (Sense Motive) A PC could go into the crowd
and look for people who match the profles.
Recruit the Cops. (Diplomacy or Profession (Soldier)) A PC might
coordinate a small group of cops to also scan the crowd.
Recruit Some Rascals. (Diplomacy or Knowledge (local)) A PC
could try to convince a few kids to be his eyes and ears.
Scan the Crowd. (Perception) A PC can watch from afar to spot peo-
ple who look like they match the profle.
Goal Three: Find the Suspects.
Youve picked out about twenty people of interest, but you need to sepa-
rate the innocent parade-goers from actual threats.
Failed skill checks here probably result in the party pulling aside in-
nocent people, and then wasting time questioning them before realizing
theyre not a threat.
The PCs need two successes here. The frst success identifes Coulton.
The second identifes both Merclife and Iscalio. If the PCs are smart,
they can pull the three aside peacefully, but if they antagonize the men,
the dockers might try to fght. If that happens, see Docker Brawl, below.
Confrontation. (Sense Motive) A PC could go to people of interest
and ask questions.
Deception. (Bluf) A PC might feign camaraderie with the diferent
people of interest in an efort to draw out an admission.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
Good Cop, Bad Cop. (Diplomacy or Intimidate) This option is only
available once the party identifes Coulton. Two PCs must both spend
time on this action. One PC makes an Intimidate check, and another
makes a Diplomacy check. They each gain a +2 bonus to their check. If
they both succeed, the dockers also rat out Dafton, which counts as a
success on Goal Four.
Observation. (Perception) A PC could watch the various people of
interest to see how they react to all the law enforcement activity.
Yank Them All. (Stealth) A PC might just grab as many people of
interest as he can, but he has to do so discreetly so that no actual threats
get tipped of and try to hide in the crowd.
Goal Four: Find the Fourth Man.
Once the PCs have the three dockers, drop some obvious clue that
theres a fourth man, Dafton. The three dockers arent too bright, and
they let slip that someone else is with them, but they dont want to coop-
erate with the PCs. With likely little time left, the party needs to fnd the
most dangerous member of the group. They just need one success.
Various. (Various skills, DC 15) The PCs can use any of the methods
from the previous goal.
As with above, Dafton might go peacefully, but if the PCs anger him,
hes ready for a fght.
If a fght breaks out at any point, see Docker Brawl, below.
Right after the crowd goes through the checkpoint, Thames Grimsley
arrives in Royal Square and tries to get onto the bridge. If the PCs didnt
manage to achieve goal two, they might think there is no threat at all.
Theyre scheduled to meet with their superior, so it might not be worth
the hassle to listen to what the old sailor has to say.
If any of the dockers got past them, though, Grimsley can point them
out to the party. By that point, though, the men will have linked up, and
theyre so close to their goal they feel overconfdent. Almost any attempt
to remove them will result in a fght.
Docker Brawl
Action. Tactical.
The gathered crowd panics as a street fght breaks out.
The moment anyone draws a weapon, people scream and the crowd
backs away in panic, giving the PCs and dockers the 30-ft. wide bridge
to themselves. The thick crowds keep the police from getting there for
10 rounds. Of course, if the fght occurs elsewhere things will go difer-
If the PCs have treated him and his men well, Grimsley might stand
aside and let the constables do their job. If theyve been rude, he might
side with his fellow dockers.
3 Docker Longshoremen (Coulton, Merclife, and Iscalio)
1 Docker Veteran (Dafton)
Thames Grimsley
Docker Longshoreman (3) CR XP 200 each
Male human warrior 1
CN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses Perception 1
AC 12, touch 10, fat-footed 12 (+2 armor)
hp 15 each (1d10+5)
Fort +3, Ref +0, Will 1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger +2 (1d4+1 / 1920)
Str 13, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 10
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Improved Initiative, Toughness
Skills Profession (Docker) +3, Swim +5
Languages Common
Other Gear leather armor, dagger
Veteran Docker CR 1 XP 400
Male human fghter 2
CN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +1
AC 15, touch 13, fat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 24 (2d10+9)
Fort +5, Ref +2, Will +1, +1 vs. fear
Defensive Abilities bravery +1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +4 (1d3+3)
Str 15, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +2; CMB +4; CMD 17
Feats Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike, Intimidating Prowess, Toughness
Skills Intimidate +5, Perform (Sing) +0, Profession (Docker) +6, Swim +7
Languages Common
Other Gear leather armor
Thames Grimsley CR 1 XP 400
Male human expert 3
NG Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +0; Senses Perception +4
AC 12, touch 10, fat-footed 12 (+2 armor)
hp 17 (3d8)
Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +4
Speed 30 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +2 (1d3)
Str 11, Dex 10, Con 9, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 16
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Endurance, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike
Skills Diplomacy +6, Escape Artist +3, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (Local) +4, Perform
(act) +6, Profession (Docker) +7, Sense Motive +4, Swim +3
Languages Common, Elven
Other Gear leather armor
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
The three longshoreman brawl wildly, then pull out knives when
things are looking bad for them. Dafton stands back for a moment and
claps a jaunty beat to mock the party despite his relatively useless singing
ability. Then he goes after whichever PC has the most interesting melee
weapon, trying to disarm him and then take on the rest of the party. If
Grimsley gets into the fght, his goal is to grapple PCs so his men can
dive of the bridge and fee to friendlier areas of the city.
If the fghts on the bridge, its a 20 ft. fall to water (dealing 1d6 dam-
age) if anyone goes over the railing. You might add some difcult terrain
in the form of an abandoned cart that holds fowers to be tossed and lyric
sheets of the royal anthem. Innocent bystanders hang back, but block of
the edges of the area.
A PC might be able to get some help from the crowd with a Diplomacy
or Intimidate check (DC 12) as a move action. If successful, three people
in the crowd come to their aid. They dont fght, but they can help fank
or otherwise distract a docker so they count as being fanked.
The police eventually arrive and arrest the dockers. If any dockers man-
age to get away, its ultimately a matter for the cops to handle. The crowd
considers the fght a bonus bit of entertainment, and the event can continue
with minimal disruption. The PCs will want to clean themselves up a little,
then go report to their superior before the nobles start showing up.
Grimsley might ask (or demand) that the party pass a message to the
governor for him in exchange for his help. He says his people are tired
of the local police harassing them just because a few of the citys nobles
dont like being made fun of in tavern songs. Worse, some dockers have
been arrested in the past few weeks because they refused to work sixteen
hour shifts loading and unloading industrial cargo.
Grimsley warns that his people are restless. Theyre raring for a riot,
and hes trying to keep them calm. If Stanfeld cant take some of the
pressure of them, Grimsley fears therell be blood in the streets. This
isnt a concern in the course of this adventure, but the problem rears its
Taking Prisoners.
As offcers of the law, the PCs should generally take enemies alive
unless they suspect the enemy can easily recuperate and escape or
threaten others. The PATHFINDER ROLE-PLAYING GAME rules let characters
make nonlethal attacks, and the PCs should be ready to do this in order
to knock out opponents. We recommend that you allow PCs to subdue
their enemies without requiring them to take any penalty to their attack
rolls; when the enemy falls to 1 hit points, it falls unconscious but is not
dying. Consider it part of the partys special training as members of the
RHC, where killing suspects is frowned on.
Additionally, PCs might try to make an Intimidate check to convince
heavily wounded enemies to surrender, but its a diffcult thing to pull off
(DC 19 for the brawlers, DC 23 for Dafton).
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
head again in Adventure Two, The Dying Skyseer.
If the PCs actually deliver the message to the governor, theyll earn
the sailors respect, perhaps even get an invite to a street party a few days
hence in a dockside neighborhood. If the party wrongs Grimsley, they
win admiration from the police, but for the rest of the campaign theyll
have a hard time getting anywhere in the city in a hurry if they have to
go by boat, as sailors carry their leaders grudge and do their best to
obstruct the PCs.
Long Night Ahead
Social. Real-Time.
The PCs are invited to join this evenings party aboard the warship.
Read or paraphrase the following to your players.
The frst of the noble carriages have begun to approach the royal shipyard, and
already the crowd on the bridge is doing its job: cheering, throwing fowers, and
performing folk songs and dances to show their support.
Before things get too busy, your direct superiorAssistant Chief Inspector
Stover Delftasked you to come to a last-minute meeting to give you your
marching orders. You fnd him chewing a bit of tobacco and eyeing a halfing chef
who is carrying a tray of chocolate confections toward the docked Coaltongue.
His attention turns to you, and he smiles. Only the fnest for our king, right?
Now then, he says, were about to earn our pay. Lots of nobles about, so frst,
dont make a scene, and defnitely dont talk to any of the nobility unless they
address you frst.
Second, if something does go wrong, try to handle it yourselves, would you?
Im going to be busy applying my not-inconsiderable charms to very important
people. The Constabulary doesnt get by with just good will and pretty faces,
you know.
And third, you did good work, so Ive got a surprise for you.
He grabs his cane and leads you to the gangplank of the Coaltongue. But hes
not pursuing the halfing chef. Rather, ahead of you waits Principal Minister
Harkover Lee, the kings chief advisor and personal bodyguard.
Inspector Delft waves tiredly to Minister Lee, who has just fnished
checking the warship for magical threats. After introductions, in which
Delft cheerily refers to Lee as the old man, the Principal Minister says
that hes confdent the security is in order. Still, he would like some rep-
resentatives of the RHC aboard this evening. After the freworks and
banquet, the king is planning a major announcement. Lee wants some
constables present to be extra eyes and ears, so Lee can get a gauge of
how various individuals in the crowd react.
Plus, he adds, there are a few recalcitrant guests who might need
corralling. When he says this, he looks in the direction of one of the
checkpoints, where a guest and her handmaiden are disembarking from
a horse-drawn carriage.
Though this is likely the frst time most PCs have seen her, from their
briefngs and preparation they easily recognize the person who has elic-
ited such distaste from Minister Lee. This is the kings sister, Duchess
Ethelyn of Shale, escorted by an elven handmaiden named Sokana Rell.
Minister Lee says he must prepare for the kings arrival. He encourag-
es the PCs to direct any questions to their boss Delft. After Lee departs,
Delft tells them to remember what he said about bothering him, and then
he heads of to mingle.
The Crowd
Social. Real-Time.
The kings sister approaches the PCs with a request.
Over the next half hour, more people arrive. All told, the hundred-
person crowd consists of about one-quarter dignitaries (nobles, wealthy
merchants, and prestigious military folks), one-half retinues and person-
al servants, and one-quarter local staf, some of whom are plains-clothes
police. Try to work in the following interactions, but let the players take
the lead.
Tiefing Engineer. The person who stands out the most is Geof Mas-
sarde, the Danoran tiefing who helped Risur design the Coaltongue. A
few industrialists and military ofcers hang near him, asking questions
about how the ship will hold up under actual combat. Wine glass in
hand, hell gladly talk shop with interested PCs, but hes used to people
acting belligerently to him here in Risur, so he has two burly bodyguards
standing by him at all times.
Captain Impossible. Also in attendance is Captain Rutger Smith,
commander of the distinguished R.N.S. Impossible, a swift clipper ship
which occasionally assists the RHC on missions. Hes discussing philos-
ophy and political theory with a black-bearded dwarf. Smith endorses
the post-Malice writings of the old monk William Miller, who said all
conficts could be avoided by sufcient understanding between oppos-
ing groups. The dwarf counters with standard Heid Eschatol theory that
any ordered system will inevitably be ruined by some random accident,
so a single misunderstanding would doom Millerite theories of peace.
Both men smoke thick cigars.
A local Flinter in his early 40s, Assistant Chief
Inspector Stover Delft is generally good-natured to
his subordinates, but has a penchant for grousing
about people behind their backs. He gets squinty
and condescending when his authority is questioned,
but he can recognize talent and good work. A much
better manager than investigator, Delft has advanced
this far in the Constabulary by fnding good agents,
supporting them on diffcult missions, and sharing the
accolades from their successes.
Delft chews tobacco, and thinks he looks charming
if he grins while sucking on tobacco juices. He walks
with a cane because a mimic tore a chunk out of his leg
ffteen years ago. He has a habit of poking inanimate
objects with the cane before he gets too close to them,
and spitting on them when he wants to be extra sure.
Perhaps the most powerful mage
in Risur, Lee acts as King Aodhans
bodyguard and chief of staff. Straight-
backed and virile despite being in
his 60s, Lee has a slight Ber-tinged
accent, and was said to be quite the
ladykiller in his youth. He always
dresses in reds and golds and carries
a solid gold orb tucked into his robes.
He never eats or drinks in public.
Harkover Lee
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
The Coaltongue. No one is allowed aboard the ship now. A gang-
plank leads to main deck, guarded by sailors. Stairs lead up from a pier
to a scafolding beside the ships bow; it is here that the king will smash a
bottle of champagne on the ships iron hull to ofcially name it and enter
it into the Risuri navy.
The Duchess
After a few minutes or if the PCs seek her out, Duchess Ethelyn asks
the PCs for help. She introduces herself, then says, It is my under-
standing that you have some sway over the arrangements of this event.
If you could do an old lady a kindness, the air here is already leaving me
winded, and the company is already giving me a headache. I know my
brothers party is going to run late, so I need a room I can nap in. Id be
very grateful if youd arrange this for me.
If the PCs strike up a conversation with the duchess, she might ad-
mit that shes unenthused about this metal monstrosity, and suspects
the only thing keeping it from sinking is infernal tiefing magic. Shell
encourage the PCs to remember the old ways of the skyseers and the fey,
and not to be tricked into thinking Danors industry is good for Risur
just because her brother uses the word progress a lot.
Handmaiden. Sense Motive (DC 20) can let a PC tell that Sokana is
actually a high elf, but this is not suspicious by itself. Many high elves
especially womenprefer to pose as wood elves to avoid hassle.
Moving On. Before the conversation goes on too long, horns blare,
announcing the approach of the king.
Kings Arrival
Social. Real-Time.
King Aodhan arrives and after brief pleasantries launches the
With great pomp and grandeur, trumpeters announce the arrival of
the kings carriage. Elite guards line the thoroughfare and open the
door, and the city governor Roland Stanfeld emerges, followed by
King Aodhan himself.
The king ofers a one-sided smile to the crowd and is greeted by his
Principal Minister and his sister. Children, gathered in advance by royal
aides, cheer and sing the traditional crown anthem as the group makes
its way to the docks.
Docker Violence. If the PCs failed to remove all the disgruntled dock-
ers, heckling begins from the crowd at this point. The royals and their
retinue maintain their composure, but the rest of the crowd murmurs in
displeasure, and the PCs spot both Principal Minister Harkover Lee and
their boss Delft glaring daggers at them.
Then the docker Dafton, if hes present, yells, Stanfeld! Look at me,
Stanfeld! You aint human! You forgot what it feels like. Here, Stanfeld.
Let me remind you! He breaks free from the crowd and advances on the
royal retinue, cracking his knuckles. Royal guards intercede before he
gets close, and though he tries to throw a few punches, he gets smashed
to the ground by the haft of a polearm, then held down by three men
until the king, governor, and the rest are safely out of the way.
This can have grave consequences later, because people will be less
inclined to trust to the party after this screw up. If the PCs show up dur-
ing the kings big speech later that evening, yelling that the duchess is
trying to blow up the ship, it might take an extra 3 or 4 rounds for people
to take the threat seriously.
Early Discovery.
The duchess is an excellent diplomat and liar, so the PCs shouldnt get
any sense that shes up to something nefarious (Sense Motive DC 25). On
the other hand, Sokana the handmaiden might seem a little off to very
canny PCs (Sense Motive DC 17). If they start asking questions, the duchess
thanks them for their diligence, but vouches for Sokana. However, the
bag Sokana is carrying, while it does hold some traveling supplies for the
duchess, also has a secret compartment that functions as a bag of holding
(Spellcraft or Perception DC 22 to detect if the bag is searched). The pocket
holds spell components for the assassination attempt.
Its unlikely the PCs will fgure out the duchess is up to something, but if
they do she will stay around as long as she thinks theres a chance she can
allay suspicions and go through with her plan. If the PCs bring in Harkover
Lee, she fares with polite anger at the old man, refusing to let him once
again insult her in front of her brother.
Lee and the duchess have a long-standing rivalry, and he is wary of
making a public scene at the wild claim that the duchesswho has been
loyal to Risur her entire lifemight be a threat.
If, though, the PCs somehow reveal the plot, the duchess uses magic
to turn invisible and teleport a short distance away, then change her
appearance to fade into the city crowds. Eventually she reaches her
allies and teleports to her stronghold in Shale. She has prepared for this
contingency, and can easily thwart anything the PCs might feld. Sokana,
on the other hand, will be left in the lurch. The Coaltongues launch will
certainly be postponed.
Finally, if the PCs manage to stop the duchess from escaping, the plot can
still continue as one of her subordinates leads the attack on Axis Island.
of Shale
This dark-skinned, distinguished woman in her
60s speaks with a poets precision, always pausing
to consider her words before speaking, which
helps those shes speaking to feel like shes giving
them her full attention. She dislikes industry and
wears extravagant diamond cluster earrings
representing the stars of the night skyto show
her allegiance to the old ways. Accounts tell of her
possessing many different types of magic, though
many of these could be exaggerated.
Though in her 50s, this high elf woman looks
to be in her 20s. In the Third Yerasol War,
Sokana was rescued by the duchessthen
just a sorceress in the Risuri militaryfrom
the island plantation of a rich Danoran, who
had kept her as a trophy wife. Sokana settled
with an elven family in Risur, hiding her true
identity to avoid retaliation by the Danorans.
The duchess helped her rediscover her fey
roots, though Sokana only displayed a marginal
talent with magic. Today she passes as a wood
elf, but when she uses magic her eyes fare an
unearthly azure, revealing her heritage.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
The Launch. The ceremony goes without a hitch. The king takes a
champagne bottle, announces that the ship shall be formally known as
the Royal Naval Ship Coaltongue, then smashes the bottle across the
bow. At that precise moment a steam whistle sounds, and black smoke
begins to roil out of the ships stacks.
The crowd begins to board the ship, and if the PCs dally, Assistant
Chief Inspector Delft reminds them theyve got a party to enjoy. Once
everyone is aboard and enjoying light refreshments on the main deck,
it sweeps toward the center of the harbor, where eight traditional four-
masted ships enter formation with it. Against their white sails, the black
clouds from the Coaltongues smokestacks makes for a dramatic image,
and though the PCs catch the duchess glowering at the sight, they can
also see crowds along the shore cheering as the small feet sets a course
out of the harbor, toward open sea.
All Aboard
Exposition. Montage.
Over the next hour, people wine, dine, and take tours of the fantastic
The party has an hour before the Coaltongue reaches its destination, just
beyond the Ayres islands north of Flint. Nows a good time to show them
the layout of the ship, which can represent a mix of them having researched
the location in advance and their taking a guided tour of the vessel.
If the players want to get into details, you can have them meet a few
notable crewmembers, but these NPCs are just for favor, and to tug the
players heartstrings if they turn up dead during the assassination plot.
Divianne Athel. A guard at the ships magazine, she explains that
fre wards hung in the three rooms of the magazine keep the ammuni-
tion from accidentally exploding in battle. She says shes stationed here
through most of the party, and that she hopes some food will be left when
her shift is done.
Fitzcairn Luckshore. A young technician in the engine room, he gets
excited if any women show up, or if anyone asks him about the engine.
He gets a little bubbly describing the intricate interactions of various
valves and pipes. The other two men in the engine room give him a hard
time because with his scrawny arms he never shovels an equal load of
Elian Aughtbrook. A petty ofcer, Elian has been assigned to keep
the visitors happy. Hell interact with the PCs if they actually try to ar-
range a room for the duchess to rest in. Otherwise, Elian does it on his
own. He has a small notebook where he wrote down notes he made in
advance about the visitors, and he enthusiastically tries to make small
talk based on badly-formed ideas of what nobles and industrialists care
A Simple Favor
Social. Real-Time.
The PCs stumble upon the duchesss accomplices in the middle of their
Near nine oclock, the Coaltongue sits anchored just within sight of
shore, surrounded by its eight-ship escort. The starry blanket of night
hovers overheard, and a quarter moon peeks above the eastern horizon.
The crew have set up an outdoor kitchen on the aft maindeck, and are
A 40-something tiefing with an airy voice and a
fondness for wine that outmatches his ability to
handle his alcohol, Massarde is one of a handful of
Danoran tiefings working for the Risuri military to
help construct warships and other weapons. He has
few kind words for his homeland. He is fascinated
with ice, and carries a wand given him as a gift by a
Drakran train engineer, which can chill small objects
with a touch. Mostly he just uses it as a novelty to cool
Stanfeld witnessed the fall of the high elf goddess
Srasama fve hundred years ago and died soon
thereafter in the chaos of Elfaivars fall. But he
reincarnated, restored to life by a sliver of the divine
power he absorbed when Srasama was slain. His
memories vague and jumbled, he found his way back
to his homeland of Risur and eventually settled in
Flint, then just a modest coastal port.
In the centuries since he has died with irregular
intervals, and with each rebirth he returned to the
city he calls home. For most of that time he has served
as Flints governor, having constantly striven to
improve himself with each life, from a simple warrior,
to a humble leader, to an educated renaissance
man nimbly handling the complex challenges of the
fastest-growing city in the world. Stanfeld wears a
near-constant expression of contented optimism, but
still occasionally complains of a war wound he took
to his back in his frst life.
The bold and idealistic captain of the R.N.S.
Impossible, Captain Smith earned his frst command
fve years ago. Now 37, he has never led his ship
into battle. That, combined with his fondness
for the Malice-era philosophical writings of the
monk William Miller, has made him the target of
mockery by more established naval offcers. Smith
seems content to just drill his crew twice as hard,
encouraging them with philosophical aphorisms
between puffs on a cigar.
Now in his 70s, the current king of Risur looks rather
unassuming. He prefers to resolve disputes by being
cool-headed and rationally persuading those who
will listen to his side. For those who wont, hes shrewd
enough to give them a sliver of what they want and
then distract them with harmless endeavors while
those worth dealing with get the job done. Despite all
this, though, he trains regularly to keep his stamina
and swordplay robust, and the rites of rulership grant
him daunting magical powers.
Rutger Smith
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
using the interior of the capacitor as a banquet room. The ceiling oc-
casionally fickers with silver arcs of magical energy, which the crowd
delights in.
The Band. A whistle from the bridge sets of motion as nearly the en-
tire crew starts to line up around the outer deck, carrying horns, drums,
and woodwinds.
Indigestion. The king and his Principal Minister move for the front
end of the capacitor/banquet hall, and a nearby PC overhears the king
complaining about indigestion.
One of the local archfey is upset I parked my ship here, he guesses,
laughing it of. One of the burdens of kingship; the fey can really let me
know when theyve got an opinion. I always get burps that taste like fsh
when I sail these days.
From now until they get back to land, the king cannot be teleported.
Errand. Stover Delft detaches himself from a trio of military veterans
arguing about small-unit tactics and comes to the PCs. He points out
that the duchess hasnt gotten back yet from the nap she went to an hour
ago. He suggests the PCs go to the observation room at the aft of the
gundeck, where the duchess is napping, to check on her and make sure
shes not trying to embarrass the king by hiding during his big speech.
What happens next depends on where the PCs go. If they wait more
than a few minutes to head belowdecks, their only warning of the im-
minent explosion is when steam stops coming out of the stacks, so you
can skip to the combat section of the next encounter. If they wait a short
while then head down, they might cross paths with Sokana and the hal-
fing assassin. If they head straight for the engine room or magazine, they
notice the guards are missing (Perception DC 12 to spot signs that the
bodies have been hidden behind casks of fredust), and might interro-
gate the engineer saboteurs, who claim everythings fne.
But most likely is that the PCs go to the quarters where the duchess is
supposed to be napping. The door is locked, and Sokana stalls by say-
ing that the duchess is sleeping, while she tries to hide the evidence of
her actions. If the duchess hasnt left already, she opens the aft window
and dives out at this moment. Meanwhile the halfing assassin hides by
the entrance, ready to attack if the PCs force their way in. If cornered,
Sokana might climb out the aft window, clamber along the outside hull,
and try to sneak back into the ship through one of the open gunports.
If combat breaks out, the instant the two sides roll initiative is when
the military band on the main deck starts to play the national anthem.
For the next three minutes, no one up there is going to hear anything
The Sabotage
Action/Puzzle. Tactical.
Stop the duchesss agents before they fnish their assassination plot.
Sokana, High Elf Sorcerer
Ilton, Halfing Rogue
2 Engineer SaboteursJenner and Ostman
Sokana CR 2 XP 600
Female elf sorcerer 3
CN Medium Humanoid (elf)
Init +6; Senses low-light vision; Perception 1
AC 12, touch 12, fat-footed 10 (+2 dex)
hp 19 (3d6+6)
Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +3; +2 vs. enchantments
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger +0 (1d41 / 1920)
Bloodline Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd; concentration +5)
5/daylaughing touch
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 3rd; concentration +5)
1st (6/day)burning hands (DC 14), entangle (DC 13), fare burst* (DC 14), mage
0 (at will) - daze (DC 12), fare (DC 13), light, read magic, resistance
Bloodline Fey
Str 8 Dex 14, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 15
Base Atk +1; CMB +0; CMD 12
Feats Eschew Materials, Improved Initiative, Spell Focus (Evocation)
Skills Acrobatics +4, Climb +1, Knowledge (nature) +7, Knowledge (planes) +4,
Perception +4, Spellcraft +7 (+9 identify magic item properties); Racial Modifers
+2 Perception, +2 Spellcraft (identify magic item properties)
Languages Common, Elven, Ignan
Combat Gear potion of cure moderate wounds, scroll of summon monster II, rusting
antenna (see sidebar); Other Gear robes, dagger
Rusting Antenna.
The removed antenna of a rust monster, this item can only be used for a
limited amount of time before its power fades entirely.
A rusting antenna can be used to make a melee touch attack that causes
any non-magical metal object touched to swiftly rust and corrode. The
object touched takes half its maximum hp in damage and gains the broken
conditiona second hit destroys the item. Using the antenna does not
provoke attacks of opportunity. Against creatures made of metal, a rusting
antenna deals 3d6+5 points of damage. An attended object or a metal
creature can attempt a DC 15 Refex save to negate this effect.
A rusting antenna has only fve charges and once expended the antenna
withers to dust.
The Duchess
and Beshela.
Right as the band starts to play, the duchess dives into the ocean, where
she is caught by the archfey Beshela, who appears as a sea nymph riding
atop some massive submerged sea creature. The PCs might get a glimpse
out the window of the duchess willingly heading underwater with the
If a PC tries something wild like leaping out after the duchess or
attacking Beshela, be merciful. The duchesss stats are presented in Act
Three. Beshela is a high-level creature, and could easily knock out a PC
with a glance, but neither of them wants to waste time fghting. They fee,
and the sheer scale of the giant squid Beshala uses as a mount should
hopefully cue the PCs in that this foe is beyond them.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
Ilton CR 1 XP 400
Male halfing rogue 2
NE Small Humanoid (halfing)
Init +7; Senses Perception +6
AC 16, touch 14, fat-footed 13 (+2 armor, +3 Dex, 1 size)
hp 18 each (2d8+6)
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +0; +2 vs. fear
Speed 20 ft.
Melee masterwork short sword +3 (1d4 / 1920)
Special Attacks sneak attack +1d6
Str 11, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 14
Base Atk +1; CMB +0; CMD 13
Feats Improved Initiative
Skills Acrobatics +10, Bluff +7, Climb +7, Disable Device +8, Disguise +7, Knowledge
(local) +5, Perception +6, Stealth +12; Racial Modifers Acrobatics+2, +2 Climb+2
SQ rogue talents (bleeding attack +1), trapfnding +1
Languages Common
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds (2), potion of invisibility; Other Gear leather
armor, masterwork shortsword
Engineer Saboteurs (2) CR XP 200 each
Male human expert 2
NE Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +0; Senses Perception +2
AC 13, touch 10, fat-footed 13 (+3 armor)
hp 19 each (2d8+7)
Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +3;
Speed 30 ft.
Melee wrench +2 (1d6+1)
Str 13, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 9, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 12
Feats Skill Focus (Knowledge [engineering]), Toughness
Skills Bluff +1, Disable Device +1, Disguise +1, Knowledge (engineering) +4,
Perception +2, Stealth +1
Languages Common
Combat Gear rusting antenna; Other Gear studded leather, wrench (treat as a club)
For the saboteurs, making sure the boiler explodes takes precedence
over their escape and safety. Only after the saboteurs manage to set the
engine on a course for detonation do they turn their attentions to knock-
ing out the PCs so they can escape.
Sokanas primary goal is to reach the engine room and throw her
elemental gem into the boiler furnace. If the combat begins in the aft
gundeck, she uses fare burst to try and get away from the PCs and move
down to the lower decks as fast as possible. She will use her scroll of sum-
mon monster II to bring forth 3 fre sprites (treat as fre beetles with fre
resistance 5, and all their damage converted to fre). Sokana orders her
sprites to try to keep PCs from pursuing her, and if she has not already
used her scroll when she reaches the magazine, shell send the sprites
into the magazine to remove the fre wards.
Ilton the assassin tries to hobble and pounce on any PCs who are
harassing Sokana, and once shes safely away hell try to keep attention
focused on him as long as possible. The halfing uses his potion of invis-
ibility to disappear if things look bad, only to reappear and sneak attack
a PC when their guard is down. The fre sprites are little more than dis-
tractions, though if they get loose in the magazine and succeed in taking
out the fre wards, they grab casks of fredust and charge PCs, planning
to explode when they get close enough.
In the engine room, Jenner and Ostman frst spend actions to fnish
their sabotage. Then they try to force enemies close to the dangerous
heat of the furnace.
Deck Access. Multiple ladders lead between the levels of the ship.
Grating. Parts of each decks foor are grating, which grants line
of sight between decks, but not line of efect. Teleportation can pass
through these sections of foor.
Magazine Firedust. At the front of the berth deck above the engine
room, a three-chambered magazine stores casks of fredust and can-
nonballs. A small wreath-like charm hangs in each of the three rooms,
marked with W on the map. While a charm is mounted, all creatures
and objects within 15 ft. of it gain fre resistance 20. If removed from its
mount, the charm grants its resistance only to the creature carrying it.
Their power fades after a day if not renewed by a special ritual.
Normally the wards prevent fredust from detonating in the maga-
zine. Once the wards are removed, however, a cask of fredust that takes
any fre damage explodes, dealing 1d6 fre damage to those within 5 ft.
If multiple casks are caught in a fre attack, the size of the explosion
increases to as much as a 10-ft. burst, and the concussive force of the
explosion pushes any creatures in the area to outside the burst.
Even if all the wards are removed, the design of the magazine prevents
an explosion in one room from setting of a chain reaction in the other
rooms. The only way to detonate all the casks and cause a catastrophic
explosion to destroy the ship is to damage them all simultaneously
such as by the steam boiler exploding in the engine room. That much
heat is far more intense than low-level fre attacks can cause, so the PCs
cannot accidentally blow up the ship.
Furnace and Boiler. Any creature that starts its turn or moves in front
of the door of the furnace takes 1d6 points of fre damage from the roar-
ing heat. Any creature subject to forced movement who ends up adjacent
to the boiler or furnace takes 1 point of fre damage from making contact
with the searing metal.
Steps of Sabotage.
Unless the party fnds a way to interrupt them very early, the sabo-
teurs will have already overloaded the furnace and disabled the alarm
sirens when this encounter begins. To make sure the engine explodes as
intended, however, they must achieve several additional goals.
Chases and Slow PCs.
What if you have a party full of gnomes in plate armor? Chasing down
Sokana before she gets to the engine room is meant to be tough, but theres
a risk it might frustrate players with slow characters. If you want to give the
PCs a chance to catch up, perhaps the security guards havent been taken
out yet, and they attack Sokana when she reaches the magazine, forcing
her to spend a round or two to kill them.
The Island at the Axis of the World Player Handout
Ship Layout.
The R.N.S. Coaltongue has a wooden hull
sheathed with 5-inch thick iron armor plating,
engraved with subtle magical icons of defense
and power. Measuring 220 ft. long with a beam of
45 ft. and a draft of 20 ft., the warship has three
lower decks and a two-story command bridge
amidships the maindeck. The steam engine,
powered by heating a boiler with burning
fregems, gives the vessel a top speed of 15 knots
(roughly 17 miles per hour).
Twelve cannons line each side of the gundeck,
which is capped on the fore by the ships mages
quarters, and on the aft by observation rooms.
Both of these rooms can be converted to fring
platforms when in pursuit or fight.
Below that is the berth deck, capped by the
ships magazine at the fore and sickbay at the
aft. Finally, the bottom deck contains the engine,
fuel bins, and various cargo.
The bridges main level contains quarters
for captain and offcers, while the second story
command deck has speaking tubes to various
sections of the ship, and is where the captain
must stand to direct the Brand.
All the lower decks have sections of grated
foor panels to help circulate air. Characters
easily have line of sight, but not necessarily line
of effect, through this grating.
Capacitor and Brand.
On the Coaltongues maindeck sits an elaborate
glass frame, reinforced by magic to be as strong as
steel, and shaped in a half-cylinder to resemble
the boiler of a train locomotive. While its design is
partially aesthetic, intended to evoke the power
of Risurs new industry, this innovative structure
is Risurs greatest trump card against Danoran
warships: a magical capacitor.
Excess energy from the steam engine is stored
in thin metallic etchings within the structure.
Even while storing its full power, the interior of
the capacitor is perfectly safe to walk through,
and its expansive windows let it serve as venue
for ceremonies and celebrations. But the primary
purpose of the capacitor is to power attack spells
of the ships warmages, and to charge the Brand.
The Brandso named because it burns an
image into any surface it strikesfres a massive
blast of pyromantic energy from the ships
fgurehead, often enough to outright destroy
a smaller vessel and cripple a larger one. Its range is
limited to about a hundred feet, and after fring it takes
hours to recharge the capacitor, but combined with the
Coaltongues speed and maneuverability, the Brand
should deter attacks by Danors navy.
Golden Ward.
The gunports, windows, and main deck are all ringed
by a thin inlay of gold wire. As detailed in the Players
Guide, this prevents teleportation across the barrier.
Main Deck.
Gun Deck.
Berth Deck.
Engine Deck.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
Countdown. From the start of the encounter, the PCs have 40 rounds
before the boiler explodes. They can take actions to gain more time, to
get assistance, or to mitigate the efects of the boiler explosion.
Overloaded Furnace. The furnace is crammed full of fregems, hot
enough to melt metal. If the door to the furnace isnt rusted shut, a PC
can use a shovel to remove some fregems as a standard action, taking
1d6 points of fre damage per round, as detailed above. After a given
shovel is used ten times, it slags and is no longer useful. There are two
shovels near the furnace, and ten more elsewhere in the engine room.
The cantrip mage hand can accomplish as much as a shovel without
risk. However, these fregems must be placed somewhere, so every fve
standard actions worth of shoveling flls one 5-ft. square with fregems,
making it difcult terrain and dealing 1d6 points of fre damage to any-
one in that space.
If ten standard actions are devoted to shoveling out fregems, double
the rounds left on the countdown. If twenty standard actions are de-
voted, the countdown stops. The mitigating factor here is damage from
heat, and sufcient shovels.
Engine Alarm Sirens. There are two alarm sirens, marked S on
the map. Repairing an alarm siren requires you to have both hands free
and succeed two Intelligence checks (DC 12), each of which takes one
standard action. This repair doesnt help prevent an explosion directly,
but fve rounds after the alarm is fxed, Geof Massarde and three of the
Coaltongues engineers will arrive to help.
Engine Boiler Relief Valves. There are two relief valves, marked V
on the map. As soon as the engineers realize theyve been found out, they
start trying to disable them. Disabling a valve requires two move actions
to close it, and a use of rusting antennae to break the mechanism. Each
closed valve takes 5 rounds of the countdown toward explosion.
An unbroken valve can be reopened with just two move actions, which
adds back 5 rounds to the countdown before explosion. Fixing a broken
valve is impossible in this scenes time frame, but the relief pipes can be
cracked slightly by dealing 20 damage to the pipe or making a Strength
check (DC 15). This also adds 5 rounds to the countdown, but flls the
engine room with searing steam, which grants everyone in the engine
room concealment and deals 1 point of fre damage each round. Break-
ing a second valve adds another 5 rounds, but doesnt make the steam
any worse.
Fuel Bin Firegems. Forward of the furnace is a large bin of fregems
which engineers normally shovel in as fuel. Already Jenner and Ostman
have flled the furnace to the brim, but they also intend to surround it
with even more fregems.
Two latches hold the bin closed, marked L on the map, and each can
be opened with a move action. Once both are opened, tons of fregems
pour onto the foor and pile up beside the furnace, flling six 5-ft. squares
with difcult terrain. This takes 6 rounds of the countdown.
Clearing one 5-ft. square of fregems away from the furnace with a
shovel takes a standard action and adds 1 round to the countdown.
Magazine Fire Wards. Removing or remounting a ward just takes a
minor action, or the ward can be destroyed by dealing 5 points of dam-
age to it. Most likely Sokana will send her fre elementals to remove the
charms, though they cant destroy them with their attacks.
If a PC tosses a fre ward in the furnace, it adds 5 rounds to the count-
down clock, but the ward is burned away to nothing.
Elemental Gem. In the gundecks aft quarters, Sokana will likely have
just retrieved her gem from the duchess when the PCs come investigat-
ing. If she can toss the gem into the furnace, it fares with light and the
furnace begins to shudder with barely-contained arcane energy as a large
fre elemental attempts to manifest within the furnace. Due to the space
of the furnace, the elemental has difculties manifesting and is still linked
to the gem. Halve the rounds left in the countdown. Shell then tell one of
the engineers to use a rust antennae to seal the furnace door.
Opening a rusted furnace door requires a Strength check (DC 15). A
character who reaches in to pull out the elemental gem takes 3d6 points
of fre damage, though he can manage to get the gem out frst even if the
damage knocks him out or kills him. Of course, there are tongs nearby,
though noticing them in the heat of the moment may be difcult (Percep-
tion DC 19). Removing the gem doubles the rounds left in the countdown
and the fre elemental dissipates back to its home plane.
Boiling Point.
Once the PCs realize that the boiler is working its way toward a deadly
explosion, they have to decide whether to try to undo the damage them-
selves, seek help, or evacuate the ship. To keep the pressure up, you
might want to have a 30 second timer to represent each round; dont be
too strict, especially if the players need you to clarify something their
characters should know.
Getting Help.
The drunken tiefing Geof Massarde is not eager to risk his life, but
the pressure of everyone looking to him convinces him to go. Mas-
sarde can automatically succeed checks needed to destroy the furnace
(see Fix It! below), and hes quite handy with a shovel, since hes resistant
to damage from the heat.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
If the PCs propose the capacitor plan to Harkover Lee, he says his
duty to the king takes precedence, and he makes the preparations de-
tailed in the Evacuate section below.
If the PCs warn the dignitaries fast enough, theres a chance they
might be able to escape before the explosion.
King Aodhan gravely orders everyone to remain calm, and then nods
to his principle minister. Harkover Lee uses a telekinetic fick of his hand
to tear free the nearest piece of gold ward around the ships edge. After
5 rounds, the ships crew manages to prep the two life boats, and key
political fgures pile into them. Then 5 rounds later the lifeboats are in
the water, and 5 rounds after that the sailors rowing them get far enough
away to avoid the explosion.
Once the lifeboats hit the water in round 10, Harkover Lee urges the
king that they have to leave. The king nods, orders everyone else to
swim, and then removes a gold ring from one fnger. Lee grabs the king
and concentrates, planning to teleport a hundred feet to the nearest of
the escort ships. Fey magic from Beshala disrupts his spell, and though
Lee teleports away without trouble, the king is left behind. Lee is only
capable of such a jaunt once a day, so he is powerless to help his king.
In round 10, those who arent in the lifeboats heed their kings orders
and start diving into the water to swim to safety. A quarter of the crowd
manages to get to safety by round 15, and another half by round 30, but
the last quarter are too feeble to swim even that far. They will be caught
in the blast. The king, a 70 year-old man, swims with them, and gets to
safety 15 rounds after hes alerted to the danger.
The ocean waters are gentle (Swim DC 10 to swim).
Fix It!
All the easy options the PCs have available only serve to delay the
inevitable. Reasonably creative idea might add a round or two to the
countdown clock, at your judgment. A PC who can deal cold damage
each round, for instance, might add 1 round to the clock for every 5
rounds he devotes to the action.
They can mitigate the damage slightly if they replace the fre wards
in the magazine. When the boiler explodes, the fredust casks dont ex-
plode. The ships lower hull ruptures, and the whole thing sinks within
ten minutes, but thats enough time to evacuate everyone.
Likewise, they might stop the explosion altogether with the unorth-
odox tactic of detonating fve or more casks of fredust in the forward
compartment of the engine room. This cracks the hull, and 5 rounds
later seawater foods the furnace and kills the reaction.
The most efcient way to stop the explosion is to break the furnace,
which is too sturdy to be afected by most weapons. A cask of fredust
pushed into the furnace immediately detonates, dealing 2d6+1 dam-
age to those within 5 ft. but shattering the furnace. Alternately, a PC
can spend a standard action and make an Intelligence check (DC 12) to
correctly place a cask of fredust so it will fracture the furnace when it
explodes. If two casks are detonated this way, the furnace is destroyed.
This either obliterates the relief valveswhich flls all the lower decks
with scalding steam for 5 minutesor breaks open the bottom of the
furnacewhich spills out fregems onto the foor, warping the metal and
forcing an evacuation of the engine room. Once the furnace is destroyed,
though, the ship is safe.
Alternately, the PCs might go for a Star Trek style technobabble solu-
tion: channel excess fre mana from the engine into the capacitor, then
release it as a blast of the ships brand. Unfortunately, since this was just
supposed to be a casual cruise, the brand isnt calibrated yet. The brand
uses a complicated mix of magical energies, but it can be calibrated on the
spot if PCs in the engine room succeed three checks: one each Knowledge
(Arcana), Knowledge (Nature), and Knowledge (Religion) (DC 19).
The ship shudders, the engine room glows with red-orange light from
all directions, and on deck, the capacitor crackles with red energy. The
dignitaries scream and cower in fear, and then a gout of fame shoots
forth from the fgurehead with a roar, vaporizing a large volume of water
on the surface of the ocean a hundred feet away. The ship shudders one
last time, and then the furnace dims to a safe level.
If the PCs come up with other suitably dramatic, risky, or clever plans,
those can work as well, at your discretion. Alternately, if the PCs are do-
ing very badly, and the countdown has 10 rounds left, you might suggest
they simply evacuate with all the haste they can muster.
Exposition/Social. Montage.
The PCs learn the full story of what happened.
What happens next depends on how the PCs handled the boiler sabo-
Critical Failure.
If the PCs dont stop the boiler in time, it explodes. Every creature in
the engine room is slain by the combination of pressure and heat. If the
fredust casks are warded, the ship merely has its hull cracked. It sinks
5 ft. every round, and 7 rounds later the main deck is underwater. The
escort ships rescue everyone, but the Coaltongue sits in a watery grave.
If the casks are not warded, though, they explode in a chain reaction,
which tears apart the bow of the ship. Every creature on or near the ship
is killed. If this happens and the PCs failed to warn the king, well, theyre
probably already dead, but the king is too. Continue the campaign with
a new set of PCs, perhaps recruited by Lya Jierre to prove that the duch-
ess was behind the whole plot.
If the ship explodes, but the PCs warn the king in time for him and
others to get to safety, they are publicly commended for saving the king,
but privately reprimanded for botching the challenge. When they are
recruited to go to Axis Island, its their boss Stover Delfts attempt to get
them a chance to make up for their initial failure.
If the PCs keep the ship from sinking, they are highly commended,
and are given the mission to Axis Island precisely because they have
proven themselves.
Critical Success.
The PCs might manage to stop the ship from sinking without even
interrupting the kings party. If they end up fring the brand, it might
coincide with the crescendo of the national anthem, setting of a round
of applause from the crowd. They can come up on deck, discreetly notify
Harkover Lee to deal with prisoners, and let the king give his prepared
remarks without disruption.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act One: The R.N.S. Coaltongue
In the immediate aftermath, the PCs are treated for their injuries
and questioned thoroughly by Principal Minister Lee. The king him-
self asks to speak to them before the night is out, and he thanks them
personally. He spares fve minutes at a very critical time to ask their
names and ask about their families. Hes especially interested in any-
one who has siblings. The king is troubled that his own sister could
betray him, and he prays that the PCs never have to fnd an enemy
among their own fesh and blood.
The Kings Speech.
Either to a small crowd on the ship, or the next day before a crowd
of thousands, the king gives a fve minute speech in which he recounts
the trials Risur has faced to defend itself from Danor through four wars
that ultimately earned either side little. For centuries, the king says, his
people have viewed Danorans as cursed and unnatural, while they claim
Risuri are superstitious and primitive. But ironically their latest eforts
to arm for war have brought the two nations closer together, as Danorans
have helped Risur with its industrial revolution.
The king hopes that his successor, whoever that may be, will not have
to lose any more young men and women to another pointless war. And so,
even though he frst started this arms race, King Aodhan now intends to
seek peace with his old, respected enemy, the sovereign of Danor. In one
years time he will convene a peace summit here in Flint, and to seal the
proposed treaty he intends to marry a Danoran.
Normally, making peace with a distrusted enemy is a tough sell,
but reactions polarize quickly because of the duchesss assassination
attempt. Even if the PCs killed all the assassins, within a few days
mages have extracted from their corpses and souls enough evidence
to brand the duchess a traitor. A handful try to defend the duchesss
actions, claiming that Risur is going in the wrong direction, and that
Danor is not to be trusted, but they are denounced. Some high-ranking
supporters of the duchess are driven from their home and sent feeing
westward to Shale.
Whats Next for the Constables?
By the time anyone knows whats going on, the duchess is long gone,
having fed by magic to her stronghold in Shale, where she prepares to
still launch her naval assault on Axis Island.
Even though the PCs are the heroes of the hour, theyre not high-
ranked enough to be given any critical assignments. Others in the
constabulary are given the task of fguring out who was involved in the
plot, and most of the PCs tasks involve following up on the work of other
investigators. Assistant Inspector Delft keeps them busy for the next few
days conducting low-level interviews, flling out paperwork for search
warrants, and the like.
A few journalists seek to interview the PCs, and they might briefy
enjoy some mild local celebrity. Still, this is an age before 24-hour news
and online updates, so they dont hear much about whats going on hun-
dreds of miles away in Shale.
Then, about a week after the Coaltongues launch, the PCs are in the
main RHC ofce late one afternoon, fling paperwork or otherwise in-
volved in ofce drudgery, when one of their coworkers tells them that the
assistant inspector wants them in his ofce.
Act Two:
Three Towers
In this act, the party helps open the way for Risurs navy to take down
the treasonous duchess.
Three Towers
Puzzle/Social. Real-Time.
The wits of the PCs are tested by the cunning Lya Jierre.
Assistant Inspector Delft is not alone in his ofce. He tells the PCs
to sit, then introduces them to the Minister of Outsiders from Danor,
Lya Jierre. Shes dressed in a rich formal coat of red and purple, which
is tailored to give her a lot of freedom of movementfancy looking yet
suited for a sword fght.
And indeed she has a sword at her hip; it looks like a rapier, but has
some tiny mechanical device attached at the guard. The sheath is thicker
than one would expect for a rapier. In the unlikely event the PCs get a
glimpse, the blades edge consists of a thin sharpened wire which works
something like a razor chainsaw when the swords mechanism is acti-
vated. The weapon is magical, a rarity and mark of great prestige among
Without explaining why shes here, she directs the PCs attention to a
strange collection of items on Delfts desk.
There are three ivory towers, each three inches tall with a steel plate on its
base. Next are three stone ringsone red, one green, and one blueeach just
slightly larger in diameter than the towers. Each ring has three strands of thread
clipped to it, and each of the nine strands ends in a small silvery magnet, which
can stick to the bases of the towers.
Lya says, The three towers are about to be attacked. They must be reinforced
by magic that fows like water from three portals -- fre mana is red, earth is green,
water is blue. The wires are canals through which the mana fows. But if the mana
streams cross, theyll destroy their respective portals. How do you arrange the
portals, towers, and streams of mana so that each tower gets all three types of
magic, without any of the streams crossing?
Delft looks impatiently amused by all this, but he tells the party to give
the lady an answer so they can move on to their mission.
Presenting the Puzzle. If you want to assemble the test for your play-
ers, some rooks from chess with metal washers glued to the bottom work
for the towers. A shower ring or cheap plastic bracelet can work for the
portals, and you can use diferent colored threads with tiny magnets
glued to their ends for the mana streams.
Alternately, some scrap paper and pens should work to let players
scribble potential solutions.
The Solution. The puzzle is a trick, a test by Lya to see how smart
the PCs are and how fast they fgure out that there is no way to connect
the three portals to the three towers without the wires crossing. More
accurately, it is impossible to solve the puzzle unless the PCs bend the
rules slightly and move into three dimensions.
If a PC presents a solution that tries to jump one wire over another,
hold one tower in the air, or otherwise solves the puzzle, Lya hufs a
laugh and commends them on being smart enough to change the rules
of the test.
the niece of Han Jierre, the Sovereign
of Danor (her father is Hans brother).
She graduated top of her class from the
prestigious academy of war, the Jierre
Sciens dArms, and many students of
other war colleges have read her thesis,
Field Study of Melee Effectiveness and
Foe Debilitation through Focused Limb
Severance Techniques Contrasted with
Mainstream Opportunistic Techniques,
which she wrote near the end of the last
Yerasol War.
Despite her youth, she was awarded the position of Minister of
Outsiders, giving her great leeway to travel and make alliances.
For the past three years she has worked with King Aodhan to
keep the peace between their two nations, and as they began
making plans for a formal alliance, she accepted the kings offer
of marriage as a symbolic union.
Secretly, she is also a tier-four member of the Obscuratis
Golden Cell, tasked with recruiting archaeologists and miners
around Lanjyr to seek out ancient seals like the one on Axis
Island. She merely thinks this is part of a scientifc endeavor to
better understand the nature of the planes. During the course
of this adventure, however, the leadership of Golden Cell are all
slain when Duchess Ethelyn of Shale attacks the island.
When the adventure begins, Lya is not aware of how
important the operations on the island are. Only after this
adventure is she contacted by the ultimate head of the
conspiracy and promoted to leader of Golden Cell. Lya Jierre
should be portrayed as a complex character with competing
motivations. Though she gets involved with Risur out of a
desire to gain great political power, she does so with no malice.
After she is promoted within the Obscurati, she sees a chance
for a more meaningful and lasting peace, but to reach that goal
she must tell ever more elaborate lies.
Minister of Outsiders
Lya Jierre
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
If the PCs announce the puzzle is unsolvable, Lya nods and thanks
them. If they keep trying for more than a minute or two, Lya sighs, ex-
plains that the puzzle has no solution, and asks Delft if hes sure these are
the ones he wants to send on this mission.
The Mission.
After the puzzle, Delft explains whats going on. The expected civil
war doesnt seem to be materializing. Instead, the duchess and some of
her allies have seized a single island in the Yerasol Archipelago, known
as Axis Island, because magnets spin on their axis there. The Danorans
conquered the island seven years ago in the last war.
Lya says that theres a Danoran mining project on Axis Island, as well
as advanced steelworks, a shipyard, and a coastal military fort. (If all of
this seems surprisingly forthcoming, its because the PCs are going to be
fnding it all out anyway.) According to Lya, this is a key Danoran mili-
tary holding, and the duchesss attack might be seen by Danor as an act of
war. Lya wants the duchess and her people of the island soon, because
she agrees with King Aodhans desire for peace, and she doesnt want to
risk giving her congress enough time to start another war. But she is not
authorized to command Danoran forces, and even if she did, a Danoran
counter-attack might result in the accidental death of the kings sister.
So Lya is bending the rules a little bit. She wants Risuri forces to re-
move the duchess and hand control back within the next three days, and
King Aodhan has graciously agreed.
Delft says that a feet of Risuri ships with marines on board are prepar-
ing to assault the island in a few days. The PCs are to set out this evening,
taking the Constabularys fastest ship, the RNS Impossible, to meet up
with the feet. Other investigators will take point, and the military will
handle the heavy lifting, but the PCs will be there because they were the
last ones to interact with the duchesss forces. They might spot some-
thing others would miss.
Simply landing at some secluded beach is infeasible, because spells at
the Axis Fort will alert the duchess if anyone sets foot on the island. But
Lya has a work-around. The Impossible will rendezvous with the naval
armada, where it will pick up a group of infltration specialistsfour
highly decorated Homeland constables from the Slate ofce. While the
navy waits out of sight, the Impossible will enter a cove under the cover of
darkness. A sea cave in that cove leads to the bottom of a mine; Lya Jierre
knows its location, but not the layout of the mine. With the aid of potions
of water breathing, the infltrators will go in frst to secure the cave, and
then the PCs will be given the signal to follow.
The islands fortress has a sea wall around a harbor, which protects
against storms and assault, but provides access for shipments in and out.
The infltrators are tasked with opening the fortresss sea gate so the ar-
mada can storm the fortress more easily. The military will capture the
duchess, who will likely be holed up in a keep in the center of the fortress.
Once the dust settles, the PCs will be on the scene to look for clues and
interrogate the duchess and her associates.
At least, thats the plan. If anything goes awry, the PCs are the infltra-
tors back-up. Theyll be supplied with mission critical resources, but
once theyre on the island there wont be any help until they open the sea
gate for the navy. If they get into a fght, either with the islands original
Danoran defenders, or any of the duchesss allies, the PCs have approval
to defend themselves, but take prisoners if feasible.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
The Complication.
While the RHCs main priority should be the capture of the duchess,
Lya has two demands. First, to avoid a war, she says that by sunset three
days from now (roughly 12 hours after retaking the island, if all goes by
schedule), Risur must hand control back over to her people.
Second, as a personal request, Lya wants the PCs to ensure the safety
of one person. Her cousin, Nathan Jierre, was on the island when it was
attacked, and shes worried the duchess might have harmed him just be-
cause hes a tiefing. Nathan was just a teenager during the last war, so he
should bear no punishment for whatever grudges the duchess holds. If
her cousin is still alive, Lya asks them to keep him safe until her people
can pick him up and bring him home.
She says she also knows other people who were working on the island,
but they knew the risk of working in contested territory. Her cousin,
though, is innocent, and she asks the PCs to do whatever they can to
protect him.
More Details.
Lya is willing to answer a few questions, but shes a busy woman and
will soon leave the PCs to work out details with Delft. Shell readily ad-
mit that Danor has factories on the island, and that yes, strange magical
things happen there, but she only ever spent a few days in the fortress,
not exploring the island. She knows that there is an archaeological inves-
tigation of an ancient culture living on the island, and so she asks them
to try not to damage anything of historical value. As stated above, Lya is
not yet familiar with the plans of the Obscurati, so she doesnt feel any
need to keep these things secret.
Once Lya Jierre leaves, Assistant Chief Inspector Delft tells the PCs
that hes got a hunch theres more going on here than what the Danorans
are saying. It might just be that the island was one of the nearest Danoran
military installations in the archipelago, but Delft wants the PCs to try
to keep an eye open for anything unusual.
If a PC is a spirit medium, Delft smiles grimly as he explains that, if the
duchess doesnt surrender, itll be up to the ghost-talker to seek answers
About Axis Island.
Thousands of years ago, primitive peoples performed a ritual on Axis
Island to seal off this world and a few affliated planes from the rest of the
multiverse. While planar travel is diffcult elsewhere in the world, after
such a long time, energy from these other worlds bleeds through near the
Axis Seal. What some interpret as the island being alive is just random
fuctuations of reality caused as slivers of foreign planes briefy overwrite
parts of the island.
These fuxes happen most often in the presence of stray conscious
thoughts, where idle imaginings make it easier for a foreign reality to
become real. Large quantities of people tend to stabilize an area, since the
mass of thoughts crowd out other planes. Likewise, the nature of the seal
ritual makes iron act as a ward. The seal-builders placed key components
of their ritual in veins of iron-rich rock, and the Danorans working on the
island install small iron spikes at regular intervals in walls or foors, which
help lock normal reality in place.
The fortress on Axis Island is led by a military commander, General
Alsanor, who is also head of the Obscuratis Golden Cell. He dies before
the PCs ever make it to the island, though the PCs might ask about him.
Axis Island.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
as to whether the duchess has any other secret accomplices, or if there
was some ulterior motive for her attacking this particular island.
If any PCs have the Yerasol Veteran theme feat, they may have fought
a battle on Axis Island nine years ago. It was a pretty place, with steep
jungles and beautiful beaches, at the edge of the wild magic zone that
surrounds Danors dead magic zone.
There werent too many casualties because the place wasnt inhabited
to begin with, and their commanders werent willing to settle in for a
slog. A lot of weird stuf happened there, thoughterrain seeming to
shift, spells backfring, rockslides and treefalls happening too often to
be coincidencealmost like the island was fghting both sides who were
trying to claim it. Even the Danorans seemed spooked, but theyre not
a superstitious type, so they held out while the Risuri commander or-
dered a withdrawal.
Mission Critical Supplies.
The PCs will each be given two sunrods, one potion of waterbreathing,
and two potions of aid. As a group theyll receive a selection of specially-
prepared scrolls crafted by Principal Minister Harkover Lee and his
aides, which can be activated by any character, even non-spellcasters,
without requiring a caster level check. These include a total of four
scrolls of pyrotechnics, two of silence, and two of passwall. The RHC, of
course, expects any unused material to be returned.
The PCs each receive payment now: 1000 gp, as detailed in Rewards
(page 3). They can use it to requisition equipment. Non-RHC characters
are paid 300 gp, but get to keep items they loot from the island. Assis-
tant Chief Inspector Delft encourages them to get some sort of healing
item, and recommends spellcasters purchase scrolls so they have enough
spells for a long mission.
The R.N.S. Impossible
Social. Montage.
The party sets sail for Axis Island and links up with their fellow con-
stable infltrators.
That evening, the Impossiblea 220-ft. long clipperleaves Flints
harbor and turns west. The captain, Rutger Smith, recalls the PCs from
the events aboard the Coaltongue, though his opinion of them depends
on how well that great ship fared.
During the brief but intense voyage, the PCs get to experience his un-
orthodox tradition of discussing philosophy with his crew during meals.
If you want to give the PCs a chance to ponder the pros and cons of the
duchesss actions, now is a good opportunity. Of course, while the crew
is willing to discuss the topic, all of them insist theyre frmly loyal to
the king.
Aided by a skyseer to keep the course at night and a druid to guide the
wind, the Impossible sails the fve hundred miles to Axis Island in just
under two days, arriving before sunset the day of the frst-quarter moon.
The four other constables arrived earlier in the day from Slate. They
take a rowboat from their ship to the Impossible, and make quick intro-
ductions before getting down to planning.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Tanya. * Half-elf druid with a hound companion. Leader of the
group, confdent but cautious. Double-checks everyones armor
and gear before setting out.
* Human illusionist who is excellent at faking accents.
Slips of to make tea during the mission briefng while an illusion
of himself stays behind.
Seven-Foot Dan.
* Towering human fghter with a spiked chain. A
veteran of the Fourth Yerasol War. Ofers to give lessons in break-
ing stuf, and has a bag full of bricks and wooden boards for that
* Goblin rogue who carries a fancy surgical kit containing
many varieties of daggers, knives, saws, and scalpels. According
to Letmas, Burton once camped out in a Danoran latrine for three
hours to get a shot at the commander of an enemy company. Ever
since then, hes worn an amulet that constantly cleans him as the
spell prestidigitation.
The plan is that evening the ship will hoist black sails and reach the
cove around 9pm, at low tide. Once they arrive at the sea cave entrance,
Letmas casts water breathing so that the infltrators and PCs can breathe
underwater for an hour or so. The infltrators will then take a 500-ft.
length of rope, dive underwater, and swim to the sea cave. Theres sup-
posedly a 200-ft. stretch of submerged cave before an opening with fresh
air at the bottom of a mine.
Once there, theyll secure the location, and signal backby animal
messenger, or sending Burton back, or just tugging really hard. The PCs
will then follow the rope to link up with them. Sunrods will let everyone
see underwater.
Together, the two groups will make their way to the mines exit
(marked as Mine C on the island map), which should be on a low moun-
tain facing an island valley. Theyll then cross over the north shore of
the island and descend to the back of the fortress. Theyll use passwall
to breach the fortress, and then the infltrators will try to open the sea
gate. Once its open, theyll use pyrotechnics to send a signal fare up to
alert the navy.
Meanwhile the PCs hole up and wait for the military to arrive. Once
the feet is signaled, it will take about ten minutes for them to strike.
Theyll be able to sail directly into the interior harbor of the fortress, and
they outnumber the duchesss forces about 5 to 1, so victory should be
a foregone conclusion.
Once the dust settles, theyll bring the PCs in to handle Nathan Jierre
and to pore through whatever evidence the duchess and her allies may
have left behind. If needed, however, the infltrators or military may ask
the PCs for help.
Sea Tunnel
Exploration. Real-Time.
Tragedy forces the PCs to decide whether to undertake their mission
without aid.
The frst-quarter moon hangs overhead as the infltrators dive over-
board and swim for the sea cave, trailing a rope behind them. It should
take them less than fve minutes to get through, but two minutes in a
strange vibration wave ripples the water around them, and the rope goes
slack. A few minutes later, the rope starts to jerk ftfully.
What happened is that while the infltrators swam through the tunnel,
a random planar fuctuation dislodged part of the stone above them, and
they were crushed. Unless youd like to keep some of them alive, Tanya,
Letmas, and Seven-Foot Dan were killed instantly. Burton only got his
leg caught under a boulder; hes now bleeding from a compound fracture,
and is barely conscious enough to tug on the rope for help.
When the PCs come upon the scene, the water breathing potions al-
low them to speak with Burton, who says he felt like he was someplace
else for a momenta swamp with yellow frogs and a purple skyand
then the ceiling cracked. Hes a little delirious, and after explaining what
happens he grabs anyone beside him. He demands they cut of his leg
and get him out of here before sharks eat him.
If the party can manage to shift 1000 pounds (a DC 25 Strength check
will do it, or some quick fulcrums and levers), they can unpin Burton.
His leg can be tended so he wont bleed to death, but hes useless for
the mission until he can see a healer back with the navy. Thats time
the party cant really spare, and when he calms down a bit Burton will
suggest leaving him in the mine, then coming back for him when the mis-
sions over. A better plan might be to take him to the Impossible now.
The party has a little while to discuss their options, but the water
breathing only lasts about an hour more. If they press on, the sea cave
goes about two hundred feet more before opening into a large vertical
Genius Loci
Action/Exploration/Social. Real-Time.
A paranoid mine foreman tries to kill the PCs as they examine an airy
Nicolas Dupiers, mine foreman
Axis Air Elemental
Axis Earth Elemental
Axis Shadow Stalker
Infiltrator Stats.
The infltrators likely all die or are disabled before they have a chance to
get into any fghts, but if you need to make up quick combat stats, assume
each of the group ranges from 3rd level to 5th. Tanya would be a druid,
Letmas a wizard (illusionist), Seven-Foot Dan a fghter, and Burton a rogue.
Quitting Early?
The most likely course of action after the infltrators are put out of
commission is for the party to enter the sea cave, head to the surface, then
sneak into the fortress and fnish the infltrators mission. But the PCs might
decide otherwise.
If they avoid getting onto the island altogether, the Impossible sails
back to the feet, which uses its back-up plan of landing on the shore near
the fortress and marching their forces in for a traditional attack. The forts
defenses are already weakened from one successful assault, so the forces
loyal to the king will succeed, though theyll take worse casualties. They
can still call in the PCs for all events of Act Three.
If the PCs get onto the island but avoid the fortress or dont try to open
the gate, they might witness some strange phenomena as they try to survive
the island. A few hours later theyll hear sounds of cannons and battle, and
later in the day troops loyal to the king will track them down and bring them
back to the fortress, just in time for them to deal with Act Three.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
The 80-ft. diameter, 60-ft. high cave at the end of the tunnel has no
light sources, but the air is pleasantly warm for being underground. At
low tide when the PCs likely arrive, the water at the bottom of the cave
ranges from 10 ft. deep to just a few inches. Wooden platforms anchored
to the walls form a makeshift dock and stairs, which lead up to a 30-ft.
wide tunnel that intersects horizontally with this chamber 35 ft. above
the water line. Iron spikes, each 6 inches long, are driven into the walls
every 30 ft. as a defense against planar fuctuations.
A 20-ft. diameter pillar of dull gray stone rises from the water line to the
ceiling. A dramatic splinter of white marble extrudes from the gray stone,
5 ft. wide and rising 17 ft. above the water. Ages of surf have eroded its
surface, but in places one can still fnd hints of ancient pictogram carvings.
It looks like once the splinter was part of a longer column, but something
snapped free its top. The missing section of pillar is nowhere to be found.
In a tiny nook carved into the tip of the marble splinter sits an oversized
gold coin. About three inches across, it has primitive designs of birds,
clouds, and dots that might represent stars. A PC with the Skyseer theme
feat, or any other character who succeeds a DC 19 Knowledge (Nature)
check, recognizes the constellation of The Eagle, said to hold great infu-
ence over the planet Avilona, which afects weather and air magic.
One of the mining platforms sits just beneath the nook. Anyone stand-
ing right beside the marble splinter hears what sounds like voices mufed
by a thin wall. The coin, the Golden Icon of Avilona, can easily be removed.
You probably shouldnt give the full item description below to the players,
unless you want them asking prematurely what the Axis Seal is.
Golden Icon of Avilona
Minor Artifact
Aura faint transmutation; CL 10th
Slot Neck or Held; Weight 1 lb; Price Unique.
Description Once per day, before the end of your next turn you can make one 60 ft.
fy move as a move action.
While on Axis Islandor if the Axis Seal is openeda person holding the Icon
or wearing it as a necklace gains a +5 competence bonus to Jump checks, and can
infuence air magic. The wielder of the icon casts spells with the air descriptor as
though they were one caster level higher. Most notably, air elementals are drawn to
it, and they defend the bearer and obey his or her orders.
Being Watched.
When the PCs arrive, a Perception check (DC 20) spots a lurking
shadowy fgure that quickly fees up the stairs to the tunnel 35 ft. up.
The shadow is bound to Nicolas Dupiers, the mines foreman, who has
hidden here since the duchesss attack. His makeshift lair is nearby in
the bottom of the mine, and he wears a necklace with two golden icons
similar to the one in the marble splinterone tied to shadow magic of
the planet Nem, and one to earth magic of the planet Urim. These are
the only icons of this type the Danorans have excavated so far, and when
the attack came, Dupiers tried to hide them.
Dupiers has set a loyal shadow creature here to watch the lower entrance
to the mine, and has an earth elemental watching another approach to his
lair. If the shadow alerts him, he sneaks up to the top of this chamber. Hes
very paranoid and twitchy, so unless the PCs come in talking about how
great Danor is, Dupiers hears their accents and assumes theyve come to
kill him. He tries to strike with the element of surprise.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Nicolas Dupiers, Mine Foreman CR 1 XP 400
Male human expert 3
CN medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception +2
AC 14, touch 11, fat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +1 Dex)
hp 23 (3d8+6)
Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +2;
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger +2 (1d4 / 1920)
Ranged pistol +3 (1d8/4)
Str 10, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 9
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 13
Feats Exotic Weapon Profciency (frearms), Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Skills Climb +2, Diplomacy +2, Intimidate +2, Perception +2, Profession (miner) +5,
Sense Motive +2, Stealth +3, Survival +2
Languages Common, Dwarven
Combat Gear Golden Icon of Nem, Golden Icon of Urim; Other Gear studded leather
armor, pistol
Golden Icon of Nem
Minor Artifact
Aura faint necromancy; CL 10th
Slot Neck or Held; Weight 1 lb; Price Unique.
Description Once per day, you may become incorporeal until the end of your next
turn. This effect ends if you attack.
While on Axis Islandor if the Axis Seal is openeda person holding or
wearing the icon gains darkvision 60 ft. and casts spells with the shadow descriptor
as though they were one caster level higher. Shadow elementals are drawn to the
icon, and they defend the bearer and obey his or her orders.
Golden Icon of Urim
Minor Artifact
Aura faint necromancy; CL 10th
Slot Neck or Held; Weight 1 lb; Price Unique.
Description Once per day, you may cast a variant of wall of stone that creates up to
three 5-foot squares.
While on Axis Islandor if the Axis Seal is openeda person holding or
wearing the icon gains a +1 natural armor bonus and casts spells with the earth
descriptor as though they were one caster level higher. Earth elementals are drawn
to the icon, and they defend the bearer and obey his or her orders.
Axis Air Elemental (Small) CR 1 XP 400 each
N Small outsider (air, elemental, extraplanar)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +4
AC 17, touch 14, fat-footed 14 (+3 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size)
hp 13 each (2d10+2)
Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +0
Defensive Abilities air mastery Immune elemental traits
Speed fy 100 ft (perfect)
Melee slam +6 (1d4+1)
Special Attacks whirlwind (DC 12, 1020ft)
Str 12, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 4, Wis 11, Cha 11
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 15
Feats Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +7, Escape Artist +7, Fly +17, Knowledge (planes) +1, Perception +4,
Stealth +11
Languages Auran
Axis Earth Elemental (Small) CR 1 XP 400 each
N Small outsider (earth, elemental, extraplanar)
Init 1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft.; Perception +4
AC 17, touch 10, fat-footed 17 (1 Dex, +7 natural, +1 size)
hp 13 each (2d10+2)
Fort +4, Ref 1, Will +3
Immune elemental traits
Speed 20 ft., burrow 20 ft., earth glide
Melee slam +6 (1d6+4)
Special Attacks earth mastery
Str 16, Dex 8, Con 13, Int 4, Wis 11, Cha 11
Base Atk +2; CMB +4; CMD 13
Feats Improved Bull Rush, Power Attack
Skills Appraise +1, Climb +7, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +1, Knowledge (planes) +1,
Perception +4, Stealth +7
Languages Terran
Axis Shadow Stalker CR 1 XP 400 each
CE Medium undead (incorporeal) (Tome of Horrors Complete pg. 541)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +8
AC 14, touch 14, fat-footed 11 (+1 defection, +2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 6 (1d8+2);
Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +2
Defensive Abilities incorporeal, channel resistance +1, shadow blend; Immune
undead traits
Speed fy 40 ft (good)
Melee incorporeal touch +2 (1 strength damage)
Str , Dex 15, Con , Int 5, Wis 10, Cha 14
Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 15 (cant be tripped)
Feats Dodge
Skills Fly +6, Perception +8, Stealth +8; Racial Modifers Perception +4
Languages None
Taking Prisoners.
As mentioned earlier, we suggest you let PCs knock out enemies
when theyre reduced below 0 hit points, instead of killing them, without
imposing a penalty to the characters attack roll. Similarly, the duchesss
forces here want to take the PCs prisoner. You can use the following rules
for situations where enemies might prefer to take the PCs alive rather than
slaughter them.
If the whole party is defeated while on Axis Island, they wake up in
the fortress prison. They can interact with the other prisoners, detailed in
Act Three, and will eventually be rescued when loyalist forces manage to
fnally breach the fortresss defenses, shortly before Asrabey Varal storms
the inner wall.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Special Abilities
Strength Damage (Su) The touch of an Axis shadow stalker deals 1 point of Strength
damage to a living foe. A creature drained to Strength 0 by an Axis shadow stalker
dies. This is a negative energy effect.
Shadow Blend (Ex) In any light condition less than bright light, the Axis shadow
stalkers form blends into the surrounding shadows, granting it concealment.
The shadow stalker gets as close as possible, and Dupiers shoots as
soon as it attacks. The earth elemental throws a barrel of oil, then in-
tercepts anyone trying to climb up its master. Thereafter Dupiers hides
behind barrels for cover and struggles to reload his gun fast enough to
keep PCs at bay. An air elemental lurks near the ceiling, almost invisible.
It doesnt join the battle unless someone has the air icon, at which point
it acts as that creatures ally.
Negotiating. As soon as the fght begins, Dupiers yells to the PCs:
You killed all my men, you dirt worshippers! That wasnt enough? Now you
want me dead as well?
The PCs might be able to talk him down, at which point hell call of
his monsters. If hes under half health, though, Dupiers starts screaming
that hes going to die. He tries to get the air icon, either from the pillar or
by knocking out whoever has it. He thinks it will keep him safe.
Ladders stretched horizontally between platforms can be crawled across
safely, or walked across with an Acrobatics check (DC 12). A character
who fails makes no progress; one who fails by 5 or more falls of.
Normal vertical ladders lead between levels of the scafolding. A rope
dangles from a wooden crane at the tunnel at the top of this chamber.
The rope can be climbed (Climb DC 12), or a creature at the crane can
raise or lower the rope 20 ft. as a move action.
A pair of ropes stretch between two sides of the scafolding. Normally
the miners hung lanterns from here for light, but a daring character could
try to walk (Acrobatics DC 19) or climb (Climb DC 12) along the ropes.
The barrels in the high tunnel are flled with lantern oil, and Dupiers
rigged them with charges of fredust. A creature can throw or drop a bar-
rel, making a ranged attack roll as though the barrel were an improvised
weapon, dealing 1d8 damage plus your Strength modifer on a hit. If a
barrel strikes a creature or solid surface it shatters, and each creature in
within 5 ft. takes 1d6 fre damage.
If taken alive, Dupiers recounts how, when the island was attacked, he
stole the Golden Icons from a safe, then fed to the mine. He thinks most
of his miners fed into the jungle. If the PCs explain the situation and
calm him down, he can guide them safely to the fortress.
Exiting the mine is relatively easy; the industrious Danorans hung
signs with handy directions. At the mines forested exit, however, the
party fnds a recent mass grave. The PCs fnd signs that the Danorans
tried shooting and hacking at trees, like the forest itself attacked them. A
few hours after Dupiers got into the mine, many other Danorans tried to
fee there, but dryad allies of the duchess ambushed the men and slew
dozens of miners.
Island Mysteries
Exploration. Montage.
The oddities on Axis Island make the path to the fortress dangerous.
The PCs have a few brief encounters on their trip to the fortress. Also,
if they are enticed to wander and explore, or if they fnish their mission
and want to take a look around before leaving, we also provide sugges-
tions for other possible encounters.
Road Trek.
If the PCs follow the trails and roads from the mine to the central valley,
then around the coast to the fortress, they have the following encounters.
Duchess Patrol. Occasionally the duchesss forces send out patrols to
hunt for Danorans or search Danoran facilities. A typical patrol consists
of 1 Rebel Investigators and 4 Rebel Patrolmen. Stats for these enemies
are presented in the Sea Gate encounter, below.
At least once while traversing the main road, the PCs get dangerously
close to one of these patrols. Have each PC make a Perception or Stealth
check (DC 12), or let them devise their own avoidance method. If at least
half the party succeeds, they can get away without being spotted.
Reality Fluctuation. The PCs are all gripped by vertigo. Their sur-
roundings briefy ficker, revealing a wooded marsh flled with croaking
yellow frogs, where a blue sun sets in a purple sky. Then the world snaps
back to its normal form. A few PCs shoes or cloaks are still damp from
having fallen into the marsh.
What Is this Place?
The ancient heroes who created the Axis Seal carved runes and symbols
into trees as part of the ritual. These carvings, along with specially crafted
golden icons, drew a small group of planes to this world. The ancients used
magic to turn the trees to stone and lower them into the earth, ensuring a
strong connection between the worlds. They then crafted smaller stone
pillars, and placed them in a pit beneath the massive golden Axis Seal in
the center of the island. This locked the connections in place.
The Danorans dug mines on Axis Island to retrieve iron ore, but
Obscurati members guided their excavations toward the locations of the
ancient petrifed trees. For their ultimate plan, the Obscurati will need to
replace the icons each tree is tied to, which is why Nicolas Dupiers has two
of them already. The ancients did not know about the sea cave when they
lowered this pillar into the earth. The force of tides and erosion broke the
pillar, which weakened the worlds connection to Avilona, the plane of air.
Recall that in ZEITGEIST, fight magic is limited.
Mine Foreman
A white-haired Danoran in his 50s, Dupiers meets the
PCs several days after the duchess attacks Axis Island.
He ran the iron mines, and is completely unaware of
the Obscurati. However, he knew that archaeologists
working for the islands military commander
General Alsanorhad found golden icons that
resemble coins three sites deep underground. When
the fghting began, Dupiers panicked, stole two of
these icons, and fed to the mine that contained the
third icon, thinking their magic might help him. When
he realized they let him see in the dark, he hid in the
mine, fearing discovery by Risuri forces.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
If the PCs wait long enough, a similar event occurs every few hours, each
time with a diferent odd landscape, some not so benign. But all have the
same blue sun. That element shows up later at the fortresss observatory,
providing a clue to the islands purpose, so make sure to mention it.
Trap. The PCs come across an overturned wagon. Swords and fre-
arms have spilled out onto the road, but this is a lure to get people to
come close. A suspicious PC using detect magic can make a Spellcraft
check (DC 12) to detect a magical aura infused with wintry cold. Alter-
nately, Perception (DC 19) reveals that the weapons couldnt have fallen
where they are; they must have been placed there.
The duchesss forces inscribed runes of warding on the wagon and
its spilled contents. If any of the inscribed items are disturbed, all the
runes trigger at once. If a PC picks up any of the weapons or examines
the wagon, the magical ward activates.
Freezing Ward Trap CR 2
Type magical; Perception DC 26; Disable Device DC 26
Trigger touch; Reset none
Effect Atk +5 melee touch. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 cold damage and is restrained
as chains of ice manifest around his arms and legs. The chains are as impressively
strong and require a DC 19 Escape Artist check to break out of or must be shattered
(20 hp, 4 hardness).
Disabling the trap will let the party loot the wagon for supplies safely. A failed
check triggers the trap. Cautious or clever players, of course, could set off the trap
from afar.
Truly clever players might try to retrieve the items without triggering the trap
(Spellcraft or Disable Device DC 19), though each item has only one ward, which has
a lesser effect.
Frost Shackle Inscription
Weapon Property (single-use)
Property The frst time any weapon inscribed with a frost shackle rune hits a target,
the rune is expended from all weapons that were inscribed as part of the same trap.
The target hit takes an extra 1d6 cold damage and is the subject of a targeted slow
spell (DC 13 Will to negate).
Wandering Monster. The PCs hear metallic grinding and the thump
of heavy footsteps coming from the woods, headed vaguely in their di-
rection. Any character with the Spirit Medium theme feat also hears
echoes of voices, too many to make out.
If the PCs wait or investigate, they fnd a huge iron golem lumbering
through the forest, missing its head from what looks like a combination
of magical rust and an explosion. It leaks black oil that seems to have
motes of white light foating inside it. This substancegloom oilwill
make an appearance in Adventure Two, The Dying Skyseer, where the
PCs will discover that it absorbs the souls of those who die nearby, and
that when the oil is burnt these souls provide great magical power.
If any PC gets within 10 ft. of the golem, it blindly swipes at him.
Theres no reason for the PCs to fght this CR 13 monster, but if they try,
theyre unlikely to be successful (treat as an iron golem).
Wilderness Trek.
If the PCs avoid the roads and just climb over the mountain to reach
the fortress, they have the following encounters.
Fire in the Woods. At one point a ferce gout of fame bursts up from
the trees a hundred feet away, rising ffty feet into the air. Its a solitary
event, and while a few trees get slightly scorched, theres absolutely no
sign of the fres source.
Perilous Terrain. Descending the mountain is hazardous. Have each
PC make a Climb or Survival check (DC 12). If at least half the party
succeeds, the whole party avoids injury. Otherwise, each PC takes 1d6
damage from slips and falls.
Reality Fluctuation. This encounter happens regardless of which
path the PCs take.
Wandering Monster. This encounter happens regardless of which
path the PCs take.
Optional Encounters.
If the PCs go exploring, they might come across these encounters, and
you can also re-use encounters from the above treks.
Abandoned Facility. There are more than a dozen diferent villages,
mines, light houses, and dig sites on the island. All such places show
signs of fghting in the past week, and in many places the bodies of dead
Danorans lie in the mud. Each village usually has a small factory, using
local magical energies instead of traditional mill or steam power. One fac-
tory refnes iron and rare gems into the metal adamantium, while others
craft huge but perfectly-balanced gears and cogs, or ropey exhaust pip-
ing with dozens of small exhaust valves, or other bizarre and advanced
arcano-technology. If the PCs poke around too long, a Duchess Patrol
might arrive, intent on searching the facility for incriminating evidence.
Axis Ruins. Occasionally the PCs might spot a few ancient bricks
from crumbled buildings, or fnd a rock wall carved with primitive de-
signs that resemble men and beasts. On the south of the island, though,
a temple survives fairly intact, preserved by layers and layers of ritual
magic. The huge compound, an eerily empty marvel of Stone Age archi-
tecture, must remain for now an enigma. The designs on the walls come
from before the invention of written language, so while clearly this place
was very important at one time, its purpose and creators are inscrutable.
Danorans in Hiding. About a hundred Danorans hide in scattered
pockets in the jungle. The PCs might spot a campfre, or stumble across a
hunting or scavenging party in an abandoned facility. The Danorans are
easily spooked, and would rather run than fght, but they might be con-
vinced to provide a distraction against the duchesss forces for the PCs.
Axis Fortress
Exploration. Montage. Level 1.
The PCs sneak inside a Danoran stronghold controlled by the duchess.
In order for the Risuri navy to attack, the PCs must breach the fortresss
outer wall, reach the harbor, activate the sea gate control mechanism in
the lighthouse, then signal the feet and make sure the duchesss forces
cannot close the sea gate for ten minutes.
The PCs might just follow the infltrators plan (see page 22). But if
they arent particularly stealthy, or if theyve managed to lose their sup-
plies, theyll have to come up with a new plan. Also, they might decide to
roam, so make sure youre familiar with the fortresss general layout.
Fortress Layout.
Axis Fortress has a 60-ft. high central keep, topped by an astronomi-
cal observatory. A hedge labyrinth surrounds that, recently grown by
a male dryad-like fey named Gillie Dhu. Barracks and critical supply
warehouses are built into the 40-ft. high inner wall.
The outer fortress has dozens of buildings, and is efectively a small
town. Many of these buildings were damaged or destroyed in the duch-
esss assault, and only a few important ones are occupied.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Namely, a nondescript warehouse houses the fortresss teleportation
circle. Unlike a normal teleportation circle spell, this etched circle on
the foor acts as a beacon. Such magic is rare and expensive, but invalu-
able when transporting large amounts of materiel. Normal teleportation
magic is risky on Axis Island and other areas in the Malice Lands, so this
beacon serves two functions.
First, any spellcaster who teleports more than a mile at a time and
targets a destination within twenty miles of the circle has their spell re-
directed here. This helps protect the fortress from long-range assaults,
whereas the wards in the walls inhibit shorter-range jaunts by enemies
already on the island.
Second, a spellcaster who knows the proper arcane password key can
use lower level teleport spells to create a brief one-way portal that leads
safely to the circle. Likewise, a spellcaster standing beside the circle who
knows the password key can create a portal and safely teleport of the
island. Without the proper key, or especially powerful magic, it is impos-
sible to fee the island by teleportation.
When the duchess attacked, she used a circle key provided by Na-
than Jierre to march hundreds of soldiers directly into the fortress.
After securing the fortress, she suppressed the teleportation circle
with a spell of her own, and placed eighty-nine gold-inlaid blades in
and around the circle so that anyone who managed to teleport anyway
would be sliced to pieces. As an additional layer of security, she has a
dozen guards stationed here, ready to sound an alarm if anything stirs
in the circle.
Also, a stable was converted into a makeshift brig to house about ffty
prisoners who surrendered or were captured for ransom. The prisoners
are crammed in tight quarters, and guarded by ten men.
Finally, the sheltered bay is surrounded by a 40-ft. high sea wall. A
sea gate opens to the north, its control mechanism in the basement of
a nearby lighthouse. Currently only a handful of ships sit in the harbor.
Several sank in the duchesss assault.
The locations of the outer and inner fort are detailed in Act Three.
Fantasy Defenses.
Beyond the normal thick wallssloped and angled to reduce dam-
age from cannons, star-patterned to give defenders wider fring arcs with
What's She Up To?
Now that she has Axis Island, the duchess plans to hold it until her own
naval reinforcements arrive. Her patrols scour the island, documenting
what the Danorans were up to here. Though her assassination attempt
failed, she still believes she has solid proof that Danor is a threat, at least
enough to get the nobles of Risur to reject her brothers peace plans.
However, ships loyal to the king have been busy keeping the duchesss
allies from reaching the island. A whole separate level of unseen confict is
occurring between King Aodhan and the duchesss fey allies; in particular,
the king has used subtle magic to hide the approach of his feet from the
aquatic fey the duchess is counting on to warn her of an attack.
Right now the duchess is considering abandoning her position and
teleporting back to her stronghold in Shale, but she is not ready yet to
abandon land that she claimed for Risur. Indeed, she hopes Danor does
try to take back the island, because if she dies it will spur more Risuri to
view them as enemies.
Axis Island Fortress.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
musketsAxis Fortress integrates magical defenses to thwart common
fantasy siege tactics. Since Danor does not use magic much itself, most
of these defenses were crafted by Drakran dwarves.
Webs of iron bars etched with ritual inscriptions are set within the walls,
which generate a slight outward force that weakens the impact of can-
nons and has the fringe beneft of making it exceedingly difcult to climb.
Rings of gold thread weave together deep inside the walls, forming a bar-
rier against teleportation and similar magic. Finally, intermittent pockets
of the rare stone opaline acts as a magic sink, absorbing spell energy.
On a more mundane note, the walkways along the tops of the walls
and roads near them on the inside are all covered in a patina of light
gravel, which crackles underfoot, making it more difcult for people to
move about invisibly. The fortress also had many watchdogs trained to
attack creatures they could smell and hear but not see, but most of those
are dead or in a kennel now.
Lya Jierre provided the RHC with details of a known weak spot in the
walls, which is the best spot to use the passwall scrolls. In any other loca-
tion, a passwall spell would stop only a few feet into the stone, blocked by
a gold ward. This location is marked on the Axis Fort map. Recall that
the specially-prepared scrolls do not require a caster level check to use.
The inner walls have no such vulnerable points, and indeed are more
resistant to magic. The Risuri military plans to try magic to bypass it
when they arrive, but those spells will have no efect.
Moving About the Fortress.
Once the PCs reach the fortress, they can use a passwall scroll to
get inside the Outer Fort. The duchess doesnt have enough forces to
keep a full look-out, and if the PCs are all natives of Risur they might
have the beneft of being able to pass as members of the duchesss forces.
She brought only a few hundred people, though, so people will be wary
of unfamiliar faces.
Theres not much to be gained by looking around right now, but the
party might try to release prisoners as allies, rig up some sort of distrac-
tion, or even go confront the duchess and try to talk her down.
As the PCs go through the fortress, they must make skill checks. Keep
track of the number of Stealth checks they fail. While the defenders
wont chase after every person they might happen to spot in the distance,
the more small disturbances occur, the faster the duchesss forces will
respond to the PCs revealing themselves.
Fortress Security.
Moving between areas requires Stealth checks. Failed Stealth checks
increase the alert level, and the higher the alert level, the faster forces will
respond when the PCs fnally reveal themselves. Most likely the PCs will
only reveal themselves once theyre at the lighthouse sea gate, but if they
make a mess of things early, use the response groups from the Hold the
Lighthouse encounter, below.
Alert Level
Secure. (0 failed Stealth checks) Business as usual.
Mild Alert. (1 to 3 failed Stealth checks) Fortress defenders are slightly
nervous, but suspect any trouble is a false alarm.
Elevated Alert. (4 to 5 failed Stealth checks) Fortress defenders are
suspicious of strangers and have weapons close to hand. Increase the DC
of Bluff checks by 2.
High Alert. (6 or more failed Stealth checks) Fortress defenders are
prepared for immediate battle. Increase the DC of Bluff checks by 5.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Explore Outer Fort. Each PC must make a Stealth check (DC 8) to
avoid being noticed. The PCs become familiar with the layout of the
streets and buildings, and learn the two facilities being guardedthe
brig and the teleportation circle. They can move to the sea wall without
requiring an additional check.
Get into a Secure Location. A PC can attempt a Bluf check (DC 12)
to get the party access to the brig or the teleportation circle. Failing this
check means the PCs have revealed themselves, and response teams will
come after them.
Instead, a PC could try to break in. He must make a Disable Device
check (DC 20) to open a path for the rest of the party, and with each at-
tempt he must make a Stealth check (DC 8) to avoid attracting attention.
Once the way is open, the rest of the party must make Stealth checks of
their own to get in.
Enter Inner Fort. Stealth (DC 12) for each PC. From here the PCs
might survey the hedge labyrinth so they know its layout in advance.
Enter the Central Keep. Its very difcult to get to the central keep
without Gillie Dhu spotting and confronting them (Stealth DC 19 per
PC). A truly brazen PC might try to deceive Gillie Dhu and the guards
into letting him and the party through (Bluf DC 19), but if anything
goes wrong the PCs will be in no position to fee.
The Sea Gate
Action. Tactical.
The PCs must get past enemy look-outs and get inside a lighthouse to
open the sea gate.
Rebel Wizard
Rebel Investigator
5 Rebel Patrolmen
Rebel Soldier
Once the PCs get to the harbor, they can easily get onto the sea wall.
From there, its 300 ft. to the lighthouse. However, a wizard in the light-
house will make their approach difcult if he spots them, and a handful of
workers and look-outs are active on the sea wall, searching a docked ship.
If combat breaks out, the lighthouse wizard will ring a bell to alert the
main fortress, which counts as a failed Stealth check for determining the
Alert Level. If the PCs are very sneaky, they might manage to take the
lighthouse without an alarm going up, giving them a chance to rest for a
few minutes before they reveal themselves by opening the sea gate and
using pyrotechnics to signal the feet.
Methods of Approach.
The cleverest method might be to use water breathing, swim up to the
lighthouse, sneak in, and assassinate the wizard and his guards.
The PCs could try to sneak along the sea wall (Stealth DC 14 or lower).
The defenders are unlikely to pay attention to anyone more than a 100 ft.
away (i.e., of the battle map). Gaslight lamps every 60 ft. each illumi-
nate 20 ft. in every direction, leaving small pockets of shadow between
them. People might not notice if a couple lamps fickered outsnufed by
cantrips or precise bowshots. Alternately, the PCs could try to con their
way in (Bluf DC 19 or lower).
If the PCs get to the lighthouse without starting a fght, the moment
they open the sea gate or fre of a signal, the local defenders will try to
stop them. More likely, though, the PCs will tip their hand and combat
will begin. Before they go in, it might be an ideal time to quaf a potion of
aid, since they can expect a fght.
Rebel Wizard CR XP 200
Male human Wizard 1
N Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +1
AC 13, touch 13, fat-footed 10 (+2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 9 (1d6+3)
Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +2
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger 1 (1d41/1920)
Special Attacks hand of the apprentice (5/day)
Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +3)
1stfeather fall, shocking grasp
0detect magic, ray of frost, resistance
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 13
Base Atk +0; CMB 1; CMD 12
Feats Dodge, Eschew Materials, Scribe Scroll
Skills Diplomacy +2, Knowledge (arcana) +6, Knowledge (planes) +6, Perception +1,
Spellcraft +6
SQ arcane bond (ring), nature sense, wild empathy +1
Languages Common, Elven, Dwarven
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds, scroll of mage armor, scroll of magic missile
(2); Other Gear dagger, robes
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Pseudodragon CR 1 XP 400
NG Tiny dragon
Init +2; Senses blindsense 60ft., darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +6
AC 16, touch 14, fat-footed 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural, +2 size)
hp 15 (2d12+2)
Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +4
Immune paralysis, sleep; SR 12
Speed 15 ft., fy 60 ft. (good)
Melee sting +6 (1d32 plus poison), bite +6 (1d22)
Space 2 ft.; Reach 0 ft. (5 ft. with tail)
Str 7, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 10 (14 vs. trip)
Feats Weapon Finesse
Skills Diplomacy +5, Fly +15, Perception +6, Sense Motive +6, Stealth +19 (+23 in
forests), Survival +6; Racial Modifers +4 Stealth (improves to +8 in forests)
Languages Draconic; telepathy (60 ft.)
Rebel Investigator CR XP 200
Male human Druid 1
CN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception +6
AC 15, touch 11, fat-footed 14 (+4 armor, +1 Dex)
hp 14 (1d8+6)
Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +4
Speed 30 ft.
Melee club +2 (1d6+2)
Special Attacks storm burst (1d6 nonlethal damage, 5/day)
Druid Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +3)
1stfaerie fre, shillelagh
0create water, detect poison, mending
Str 14, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 15, Cha 10
Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 13
Feats Combat Casting, Toughness
Skills Knowledge (nature) +5, Perception +6, Spellcraft +3, Stealth 1, Survival +4
SQ nature bond (Weather domain), nature sense, wild empathy +1
Languages Common
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds; Other Gear hide armor, club
Rebel Patrolmen (5) CR
/3 XP 135 each
Male human warrior 1
LN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception 1
AC 14, touch 11, fat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +1 Dex)
hp 12 each (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will 1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee longsword +1 (1d8 / 1920)
Ranged light crossbow +2 (1d8 / 1920)
Str 11, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Lightning Refexes, Point Blank Shot
Skills Climb +3, Survival +0, Swim +3
Languages Common
Other Gear studded leather, longsword, light crossbow
Rebel Soldier CR XP 200
Male human fghter 1
LN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception +1
AC 17, touch 11, fat-footed 16 (+6 armor, +1 Dex)
hp 17 (1d10+7)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1
Speed 20 ft.
Melee glaive +4 (1d10+3 / 3)
Str 15, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +3; CMD 14
Feats Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (glaive)
Skills Intimidate +3, Survival +5, Swim +1
Languages Common
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds; Other Gear chainmail, glaive
One rebel patrolman stands guard inside the ground level of the light-
house, while the rebel wizard watches from the window one foor up.
His pet pseudodragon naps beside him. A patrolman stands watch near
each of the three lamp posts on the map. The remaining patrolman is on
the ship and gangplank down the ramp to the left. The investigator is
directing a search of the ship, while the rebel soldier is smoking a pipe at
the bend in the ramp switchback.
The patrolmen hang back, trying to shoot from cover as much as
possiblebehind lamp posts, doors, or barrels. The investigator links
up with the soldier and they advance as quickly as possible. Meanwhile,
the lighthouse wizard blasts from relative safety. When the wizard is re-
duced below half hit points, or if the PCs breach the tower, he and his
pseudodragon move downstairs to back up the patrolman.
Bear in mind the elevation diferences; a shooter at sea level might not
be able to target someone on the outer side of the sea wall.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
A lamp post, door, and windows provides cover. The sloped ramp down
to the inner harbor provides a good venue for rolling barrels down at foes
(+4 ranged attack; 1d6+1 damage and knocked prone). If the fght happens
to reach the top foor of the lighthouse, anyone in the path of the light is
blinded, and the beacon turns 90 degrees at the start of each turn.
The highest ledges of the sea wall have chest-high stone railings, so
forced movement cant slide PCs into the ocean, at least not easily.
If the PCs investigate the pallets on the docked ship, they fnd crates
full of fredust, just waiting to be detonated with a little fre damage. The
explosion hits everyone within 5-ft., does 1d6 points of fre damage, and
turns the ships deck catches fre, dealing 1d6 damage to any creature
that enters or starts its turn there.
The bottom foor of the lighthouse contains the sea gate mechanism
and a small hearth for warmth. A closet leads to a cluttered storage base-
ment, too tight for much combat, but with plenty of odd things PCs
might use as barricades or traps in the next encounter.
Sea Gate Mechanism. Operating the sea gate mechanism is quite
easy. A single standard action lets a PC turn some valves, open a safety
latch, and pull a lever, which starts the sea gate moving with a loud me-
chanical clanking sure to alert anyone nearby. It takes a minute for the
gate to open enough to let a ship through.
The next encounter starts as soon as the PCs open the gate or signal
their allies. A very stealthy party might manage to secure the lighthouse
without an alarm being raised, and could rest briefy. Otherwise, en-
emies are on the way, leaving no time to rest.
Hold the Lighthouse
Action. Real-Time.
The PCs must defend the lighthouse as the fortresss defenders try to close
the sea gate.
When the PCs launch pyrotechnics to alert the navy, an alarm goes up,
and fortress defenders move toward the mainland end of the sea wall in
preparation of an attack on the lighthouse. The PCs have limited time to
prepare. They have to defend their position for ten minutes, long enough
for reinforcements to arrive.
We present this scene as a quick, tense skill encounter, which should
make the whole thing go by much faster than if you choose to run a tra-
ditional combat.
Hold the Lighthouse (CR 1 Skill Encounter).
You can see enemy forces gathering in the distance. You have limited time to
prepare yourself, but a little ingenuity might negate the need for a fght.
Key Skills: Bluf, Constitution, Craft (Trapmaking), Diplomacy,
Knowledge (Engineering), Intimidate, Sleight of Hand , Spellcraft,
Stealth, Strength
Difculty: Unless otherwise noted, all skill checks are DC 15.
In this encounter, the PCs want to ensure the sea gate remains open so
their allies can storm the fort. They are contested by enemy forces trying
to reach the controls for the sea gate and close it. The enemy forces come
in waves, and the PCs have time before each wave to prepare defenses.
The PCs can lay traps, set up barricades, actively attack, or other-
wise fend of the enemies advance. If the enemies defeat the PCs, they
can close the sea gate and make it much harder for the partys allies to
Victory: The PCs win if the sea gate is open at the end of Round Ten
or any round thereafter. Their allies sail through and provide enough
reinforcements that the duchesss forces cannot manage to retake the
Failure: The PCs lose if they are all knocked unconscious, surrender,
or fee, and the sea gate is closed.
Passage of Time.
Every minute of the encounter is one round, and each PC can take
one action per round. PCs can also cast spells or use potions/scrolls to
heal or prevent damage, in addition to their primary action; the amount
of time required is inconsequential in the span of a one minute round.
However, for each spell cast (or other thing that takes a standard action),
the PC takes a 1 penalty to his or her check on that round.
There are three locations in this skill challenge: the sea wall, outside
the lighthouse, and inside the lighthouse. Keep track of where each en-
emy group is.
When PCs take their actions they can move to any location, but they
remain in that location until the start of their next turn. If a PC wants to
set up a trap on the sea wall, for instance, he risks being caught in the
open by approaching enemies.
If getting to a location would require moving through a location cur-
rently occupied by enemies, the PC must make a Stealth check (DC 8).
This does not count as his action for the round, but if he fails, he gets
stuck in the enemies location. If that happens, he can choose a diferent
action, to try to make the best of a bad situation.
For All the
Wargamers Out There.
If you think your players would get a kick out of a defend the base
combat, you can use stats from the previous encounter to create waves
of enemies. The PCs have a few rounds to set up barricades and possibly
even traps. Use the skill challenge timeline and alert level to determine
how much lead time the party has.
Wave A. * 8 Rebel Patrolmen and 2 Rebel Soldiers.
Wave B. * 1 Rebel Investigators, 2 Rebel Soldiers, and 12 Rebel Patrolmen.
Wave C. * 2 Pseudodragons, 1 Rebel Wizard, and 3 Rebel Soldiers, and
12 Rebel Patrolmen.
Putting several combats in a row could be a bit of a grind, though, and
the enemies are all fairly faceless, so if you plan to run this scene as a
traditional combat, you can give it more emotional impact by making
NPCs whom the players will want to thwart. Perhaps as they sneak
through the fort they spot a smarmy military offcer making a pair of
Danoran scullery maids fght each other with knives for the amusement
of him and his men. The PCs would be in no position to attack a large
force out in the open, but now that they have walls to protect them, it
could be satisfying to get some revenge.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
Sea Wall.
This location is too large to barricade efectively.
Outside the Lighthouse
This location can have no more than 20 points of barricade at a time.
Inside the Lighthouse
This location can have no more than 10 points of barricade at a time.
If the lighthouse has more than 5 points of barricade, PCs cannot easily
move into or out of the lighthouse. If an ally can throw a rope down from
a window, the PC can get inside, but both PCs involved take a 5 penalty
to their actions for the round.
Enemy Forces.
Three waves of enemy forces are on their way. Mechanically, each
wave consists of a number of enemies. As the PCs use their actions to kill
enemies, you can use the suggested compositions in the sidebar on page
31 to help favor your descriptions.
Wave A. 5 enemies. Arrives on the sea wall at the start of round 1.
Wave B. 10 enemies. Arrives on the sea wall at the start of round 4.
Wave C. 16 enemies. Arrives on the sea wall at the start of round 7.
If the PCs manage to defeat a given wave they might have some time to
prepare for the next one. If a latter wave reaches the location of an earlier
wave, combine them into one group.
Timeline. The alert level when the PCs reached the lighthouse ad-
justs the arrival times of the waves. If Secure (0 failed Stealth checks),
delay each waves arrival by 3 rounds. If Mild (13 failed checks), delay
the wave by 2 rounds. If Elevated (45), delay by 1 round. If High alert,
use the base time.
Enemy Actions. After the PCs take their actions, the enemies act.
Various PC actions can destroy enemy units, but to refect the simultane-
ity of the scene, an enemy that is destroyed still gets to act on the turn. It
is then removed at the end of the turn.
When enemies act, they move as far as they can, but they cannot enter
a location with a barricade, and they stop if they reach a location with a
PC, trap, or ward.
If they stop next to a barricade, they frst work to remove the barricade.
Each enemy reduces a given barricade by 1 point. When the barricade is
reduced to 0, it is destroyed.
Then, if they are in a location that contains a PC, for each enemy that
didnt use its turn to remove barricades, one PC in the location takes 2
damage. If there are multiple PCs in the area, the PCs divide the enemies
attacks as they choose among themselves.
Finally, for every enemy who still hasnt acted, one PC in an adjacent
location takes 1 damage from enemy ranged attacks. The enemies can
only afect PCs inside the lighthouse if those PCs spent their action to
attack this turn. (Otherwise the PC is considered safe behind walls.)
PCs reduced to 0 hit points this way automatically stabilize and can
be revived by healing.
Suggested Character Actions.
You may want to remind your players that they can always aid their
allies if their own skill modifers are too low to have much chance of
succeeding alone.
Assemble Barricade. (Strength or Knowledge [Engineering]) A
PC hurriedly piles whatevers at hand to halt the enemies advance.
The PC creates 3 points worth of barricade inside the lighthouse, or
2 points of barricade outside the lighthouse. A failed check places 1
point of barricade.
A PC cannot assemble a barricade in a location already occupied by
enemies, and there is not enough material to efectively barricade the
sea wall.
Battle. (Special) The PC does not have to make a check to perform
this action. Instead, he must have a combat action (melee, ranged, or
spelleven a cantrip) that can afect an enemy in range. Melee attacks
work if the PC ends his turn in the same location as the enemies.
The PC kills 1 enemy. If he describes a particularly efective strategy
or gambit, he might at your discretion kill 2 enemies.
A PC in the lighthouse can make a Stealth check (DC 18) to snipe
and move to cover when attacking enemies outside the lighthouse or
on the sea wall. If successful, he takes no damage from any ranged
Boiling Oil. (Special) This action can only be done once, and only
has an efect if enemies are right outside the lighthouse. No check is re-
quired, but three PCs must be in the lighthouse and must all use this
action in the same round to have any efect. The PCs use the lighthouse
beacons brazier and supplies of fuel to create a pan of boiling oil, which
they pour out the window, searing anyone in front of the entrance. This
kills 5 enemies.
As with Battle, a PC can attempt Stealth to reduce damage from
Brace. (Strength or Constitution DC 10) The PC must be inside the
lighthouse to use this action. By using his own force to hold barricades
in place, he makes it harder for enemies to get through. The frst 2 en-
emies who try to remove barricades this round have no efect.
Sabotage the Gate. (Special) A PC with the Technologist theme feat
does not have to make a check to perform this action. Other PCs must
make an Intelligence check (DC 15). If successful, the PC damages the
controls of the sea gate mechanism. Even if the PCs are defeated by the
enemy forces, it takes 2 rounds for the enemies to repair the damage and
close the sea gate, giving reinforcements more time to get in.
Set Trap. (Craft (Trapmaking) or Disable Device) A PC uses avail-
able materials (weapons, ropes, loose stones, supplies from storage) to
assemble a crude trap that lasts until the end of the encounter or until
expended. A PC cannot assemble a trap in a location already occupied
by enemies. When the enemies reach that location, the trap is expended
and kills 1 enemy.
Set Ward. (Spellcraft) As Set Trap, except a PC scratches some sigils
into a surface and uses one of his spells to prepare a temporary trap that
lasts until the end of the encounter or until expended. To use this action,
the PC must have a spell available that deals damage. Even a cantrip
Stall. (Diplomacy or Intimidate) The PC shouts to the approaching
enemies, perhaps to try to convince them to surrender, to negotiate a
feigned surrender of the PCs, to cow them into holding of for reinforce-
ments, or to create a hostage situation. If the check succeeds, no enemies
advance this round.
Increase the DC by 2 for each previous round the enemies were stalled.
Smaller or
Larger Parties.
Reduce Waves A, B, and C by 1, 2, and 4 enemies each for each PC fewer
than fve, and increase likewise for larger parties. A party of seven PCs, for
instance, would face 7, 14, and 24 enemies.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Two: Three Towers
If the PC is using Diplomacy, increase the DC by 2 if the party attacks
at all this turn. If the PC is using Intimidate, increase the DC by 2 if the
party doesnt attack at all this turn.
If the PCs have hostages, they get a +5 bonus to checks to Stall. If the
stalling PC lies (such as to feign surrender, or to fake having hostages),
he must also make a Bluf check (DC 12) or the Stall attempt fails.
Multiple PCs can try to Stall. Only one needs to succeed to stop the
enemy advance.
Complications and Lucky Breaks.
If things are going too easily for the PCs and you want to ratchet up the
tension, or if you want to cut them some slack, consider these options.
Extra Enemies. The simplest option is to add an extra wave of en-
emies equal to the number of PCs in the party. This might be necessary
if it hits round 7 and the party has 30 points of barricade up.
Invisible Ambush. If no PC spots them (Perception DC 19), a pair of
pseudodragons fy up the side of the tower, break through the windows,
and get inside the lighthouse. Place 2 enemies in the lighthouse. This
might provide enough of a disruption for the next wave to get close and
assault the lighthouse doors.
Surrender or He Dies! If a PC is knocked out in an area occupied
by enemies, the enemy leader might put a sword to the PCs throat and
threaten to kill him unless the rest of the party surrenders. Be careful if
you think your players might resent being sentenced to death by their
Unnatural Wave. At the start of the round, the PCs spot a sudden
disturbance on the coastline, as the local planar fuctuations cause a
hundred foot high shaft of amber to erupt out of the sea foor, then disap-
pear just as suddenly. A massive wave rushes toward the sea wall, and at
the end of the round it hits. The wave deals 2d6 damage to each PC on
the sea wall, and it kills half of the enemy forces on the sea wall.
If the PCs win this challenge, allied ships sail into the harbor, and
archers and mages on-deck attack any remaining enemy forces. Within
a few minutes, soldiers reach the lighthouse to reinforce it, and military
doctors and druidic healers start to tend to the PCs wounds. Each PC is
healed back to full hit points, but then they only get a brief respite before
the beginning of Act Three.
If the PCs fail, the sea gate slams shut, and the PCs are carted of in
shackles to the makeshift prison in the outer fort. It takes several hours
for the navy to maneuver to shore and prepare a ground assault. Its
nearly sunrise by the time the PCs are rescued, and their allies have al-
ready sufered hundreds of casualties. When theyre rescued, doctors
and healers tend to them, as above.
Hold the Lighthouse.
On the Sea Wall.
Cannot be barricaded.
Outside Lighthouse.
Can have up to 20 points of barricades.
Inside Lighthouse.
Can have up to 10 points of barricades. PCs cant enter or leave
the area if there are more than 5 points of barricades.
Conducting the Encounter.
Timeline. Each round is one minute. Allies arrive in round
ten, and if the sea gate is open, the PCs win. Each round, frst all
the PCs act, then all enemies act. Enemies that are destroyed still
act and are removed at the end of the round. PCs reduced to 0 HP
or less automatically stabilize.
Tracking Locations. Place PC minis in the appropriate area
whenever they move. Use coins or dice to keep track of how many
enemies are in each area.
PC Turn. PCs move to an area, then take one action. Sug-
gested actions include:
Assemble Barricade. Strength or Knowledge (Engineering)
DC 15. Create 3 points of barricade inside lighthouse, or 2 points
outside lighthouse. On a failed check, create 1 point. Area must
have no enemies.
Battle. No check or attack roll required. Destroy 1 enemy, or 2
if clever or daring.
Brace. Strength or Constitution DC 10. Barricade in your area
resists frst 2 points of enemy action this turn.
Set Trap or Ward. Craft (Trapmaking), Disable Device, or
Spellcraft DC 15. When enemies enter this area, destroy 1 enemy.
The trap is expended.
Stall. Diplomacy or Intimidate DC 15. Enemies dont advance
this turn. +2 DC per round.
PCs can also cast spells or use potions/scrolls to heal or pre-
vent damage without having to spend extra actions, but each
such efort incurs 1 penalty to skill check for that turn.
Enemy Turn. Enemies move as far as they can toward the
lighthouse interior. They stop when they reach a location with a
PC, trap, or ward. If there are any barricades in an area, they stop
before entering that area.
Then for each enemy, act in the following order.
Remove 1 point of barricade from an adjacent area until there
are no adjacent barricades.
Deal 2 damage to a PC that shares the area with the enemy.
PCs can choose who among them take the damage.
Deal 1 damage to a PC in another area.
Act Three: Under
the Wheel of Stars
In this act the party helps take down the duchess and confronts a
daunting emissary of the Unseen Court.
The Assault
Social/Exposition. Montage.
The PCs rest for an hour as their allies muster and assault the fortress.
Risuri warships sail into the harbor, fring cannons, arrows, and
spells at the duchesss forces who dare to break from cover. The duch-
esss forces fall back to the walls of the Outer Fort while ships line up out
the mouth of the harbor. Crews lash gangplanks from prow to stern so a
thousand soldiers can march to the mainland.
The Second Invasion in a Week.
Axis Fortress still has damage from the last time it was sacked, and so
the Risuri loyalist forces have several options for breaching the defenses.
They outnumber the duchesss forces fve to one, and plan to quickly
climb over the walls with the aid of siege engines they brought on the
lead ships.
The fort is designed to be defended by people with muskets and can-
nons, weapons the duchesss forces arent well-trained with, so the outer
wall will be overcome within an hour. The inner wall is a tougher nut to
crack, however, and so the plan is basically to surround it and assault
diferent sides in turn, then fall back, forcing the defenders to rush from
battle to battle. This should eventually cause them to leave an opening
that can be exploited, while minimizing casualties to loyalist forces.
If the PCs failed to open the sea gate, though, the duchesss forces
have more time to prepare and attack incoming siege engines, which
makes it much harder for loyalist forces to breach the outer fort.
Missions Not Over.
The PCs have a chance to rest, and after about half an hour Captain
Rutger Smith of the Impossible arrives at the lighthouse to speak with
them and get a report. He ofers them all cigars, but tells them not to
smoke them until the mission is fully complete. He explains that with
the tragic death of the infltrators, theyre technically the highest author-
ity for non-military matters, so its their responsibility to deal with the
duchess once the soldiers reach her. Captain Smith suspects shell hole
up in the central keep, but the military should be able to surround her
within a few hours.
If the PCs seem reticent to stay involved (such as if theyre out of spells
or consumables), they can arrange to get a small military escort of one
Allied Soldier apiece. You can use the stats below, which we provide in
printer-friendly format at the end of the adventure.
Alternately, if you prefer simpler rules with fewer minis in combat,
you can give the PCs access to the following two abilities to represent
the involvement of their allied soldier.
Allied Soldier Defense (Ex) Your allied soldier is on guard, providing warnings and a
handy shield. You gain a +2 bonus to AC and to saving throws.
If you are knocked unconscious, the allied soldier stabilizes and protects you.
Asrabey WAS born shortly
after the death of the goddess
Srasama. When he was old
enough, he became one of the
many husbands of Kasvarina
Varal, a powerful matriarch who
had survived the Great Malice.
Kasvarina was unable to have
children, and she encouraged
Asrabeys resentment of the
humans who had sentenced
their people to death. For years
he trained, and undertook many daring raids until he became
famous as one of the greatest high elf warriors in the world.
Eventually Kasvarina and her clan realized that they needed
to be more discreet to survive humanitys hunt of them.
Asrabey left Elfaivar and offered his services to the Unseen
Court, though he has kept a much lower profle for the past two
hundred years. The fey lords have been content to squabble
amongst themselves, and have only called upon Asrabey when
someone of prominence in Risur starts to scheme against them.
Asrabey has not seen Kasvarina for ffty years, and he has not
the slightest inkling of her affliation with the Obscurati. He might
respect a few humans from Risur, but he hopes that someday
Kasvarina will come to him and ask him to lead a fnal war of
retribution against the Clergy that ruined their race, and the nation
of Danor, whose tiefing leaders bear the mark of their crime.
Asrabey is supposed to be much more powerful than the
party under normal circumstances, but because he has to fght
so many to get to the duchess, the PCs will have a chance to
take him down.
Asrabey is a 15th level character who, by the time he reaches
the duchess, is down to 1 hit point. His defenses are nearly
unhittable, but the party can defeat him with a natural 20,
abilities that damage without an attack roll, or by various clever
tricks. Combat is likely to be fast and brutal, since if they dont
drop him, Asrabey can easily take down one PC per round.
In essence, the PCs should be scared to engage with Asrabey
and likely will not have suffcient powers to realize how
wounded the high elf actually is. GMs should subtly help PCs
understand that fghting Asrabey is a gambit that could end with
multiple deaths!
High Elf Dreadnought
Asrabey Varal
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
You can also have your allied soldier suffer the effect of an attack in your place.
The attack does nothing to you, but your allied soldier is incapacitated until he
can get a few minutes to rest and heal out of combat. While your allied soldier is
incapacitated, you lose the Allied Soldier Offense ability and the AC bonus and
stabilization options of this ability. If you have your soldier suffer the effect of an
attack a second time in the same combat, he is killed, and you lose this ability.
Allied Soldier Offense (Ex) Your allied soldier assists you when you attack. You gain
a +2 bonus to your melee attack rolls. Once per combat, you can have your allied
soldier hurl a fask of alchemists fre (+2 ranged touch attack). The soldier makes no
other attacks.
Meet the Grunts: Sergeant Glassman reports for duty to the PCs, and
introduces the rest of his small detachment of warriors, who will be the
partys allied soldiers.
Glassman has taken a vow of total honesty, which makes him appear
rather fatalistic. If the PCs direct him and his men into harms way, hell
remind them that its likely theyll be responsible for his death. Hell
obey orders, but he occasionally chimes in with of-color comments (e.g.,
if theyre going to send someone into danger, hell suggest, Send Pri-
vate Waterhouse frst. I dont much like the guy.).
The corporal has just fnished introductions when a commotion draws
the partys attention outside.
Allied Soldier CR
/3 XP 135 each
Male human warrior 1
LN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception 1
AC 16, touch 11, fat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +1 shield)
hp 12 each (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +1, Will 1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee longsword +1 (1d8 / 1920)
Ranged light crossbow +2 (1d8 / 1920)
Str 11, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Skills Climb +1, Ride +2, Stealth 1
Languages Common
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds, alchemists fre (3); Other Gear chain shirt,
buckler, longsword, light crossbow
The Dreadnought
Action. Real-Time.
A servant of the Unseen Court, high elf warrior Asrabey Varal, makes
an imposing and dramatic arrival.
Gunshots and screams of panic sound from one of the Risuri ships
in harbor, hundreds of feet away from the lighthouse. A few fashes of
fre light up the night, and then a massive ball of fame engulfs the ship.
Smoke billows upward as the rigging catches ablaze, and the party can
faintly make out a humanoid fgure striding across the burning deck. He
points a faming sword and sweeps it in an arc toward the sea wall. All of
the gas lamps shatter and go dark.
This is Asrabey Varal, armed with a sword of pure fre and a lion-faced
shield that can fy and bite his enemies. He then leaps thirty feet from
the ship to the sea wall, and his cloak transforms into a cloud of smoke,
making him practically invisible in the night.
All this transpires in two rounds, too fast for the PCs to get close
enough for a fght.
Asrabey stowed away aboard one of the warships headed for Axis Is-
land, using fey magic to remain invisible in the hold. Once the assault
began and the crew disembarked, he left his hiding place, but was con-
fronted by the remaining crew. Refusing to be delayed, he slew the men
and used a spell to set fre to the ship, hoping the demonstration of his
power would make others hesitate to stand in his way.
A few sailors on nearby ships saw what happened, and if the PCs ques-
tion them they describe the high elf as if he were an invincible demigod.
They say he was shot by three men but did not finch, and that his shield
few from his hand to maul a druid who might have had the magical
power to stand against him. Messengers have already set of running to
alert the rest of the military. The ship takes an hour to burn to a husk, by
which time rowboats have nudged it away from the rest of the feet.
Character Knowledge. From their own distant observations, or by
examining the ship before it becomes too infamed to be safe, the party
might draw some conclusions.
Knowledge (Arcana).
* DC 10: The magic used is fey in origin.
Knowledge (Arcana).
* DC 15: The spellcaster was likely a high
elf, probably a Vekeshi mystic, based on patterns of scorch marks
and the way tongues of the still-active fre takes the shape of hands.
A PC with the Vekeshi Mystic theme feat doesnt need to make a
check to know this.
Knowledge (History).
* DC 10: The attacker had a faming sword
and a fying shield. There was a fey warrior who matched that
description at a battle two hundred years ago, in the First Yerasol
Knowledge (History).
* DC 15: His name was Asrabey, and he
fought to rescue a high elf woman who was captured by a Danoran
general. He aided the Risuri forces indirectly, but was not techni-
cally an ally.
* DC 10: The warriors faming sword switched shapes
between a short blade and some sort of long faming fail or whip.
* DC 15: There is just a little fresh blood on the sea
wall, probably from the attacker.
If PCs succeed the hard (DC 15) checks for both Knowledge checks
(Arcana and History), they can put together that Asrabey works for the
Unseen Court, though they can only speculate for now why hes here.
You might also remind them that the duchess has been Risurs liaison to
the Unseen Court for decades.
Pursuit. Asrabey is heading at break-neck speed for where the Risuri
loyalists are setting up their siege engines. Hell rush to the top of one of
those engines as it nears the forts outer wall, killing anyone who gets in
his way. Then he leaps with magical force over the wall and cuts through
swaths of the duchesss warriors who make the mistake of attacking him
on the far side.
From there he runs to the nondescript warehouse in the outer fort that
conceals the teleportation circle and disables the defenses the duchess
put up around it. His plan is to go to a less-defended section of the inner
wall, where he will unleash the power of an ancient magical item to get
him into the inner fort. He runs along the tops of the hedges of Gille
Dhus labyrinth, setting it afre, then jumps to the outer wall of the cen-
tral keep. He spider climbs to a window and tears free stones in the wall
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
until he fnds the gold thread designed to block teleportation. He rips
the golden ward out, teleports through the window, and battles his way
to the top foor of the keep.
He plans to confront and kill the duchess, leave a scroll containing a
letter for King Aodhan atop her body, and then rush back to the ware-
house with the teleportation circle, and teleport to the mainland using a
brief ritual taught to him by his lords in the Unseen Court.
Its not particularly feasible for the party to pursue Asrabey, especially
not through the battle going on at the outer wall. The adventure assumes
that the party will next cross paths with him as he breaches the inner
wall (see Immurement, below), but the party might wander into the same
location he is before then. Asrabey cares only that his mission is not
stopped, so he prefers to just avoid combat and conversation if possible.
If his movement is blocked he will cut down one or two PCs, then fee
over their bodies, unconcerned about opportunity attacks.
Brig and Belligerence
Social. Real-Time.
The PCs question Danoran prisoners.
About an hour later, a courier fnds the PCs and reports that theyve
found a makeshift brig housing dozens of Danoran prisoners the duch-
ess had captured. Twelve of them are tiefings, and so they thought the
party might want to check to see if Nathan Jierre is among them.
The courier can guide the PCs (and their allied soldiers) to the brig, a
stable that was hastily converted with iron bars to make cells out of ani-
mal pens. Along the way they spot a lot of wounded, a few dead on their
side, and slightly more dead on the duchesss side. The soldiers are busy
disassembling their siege engines, hoisting them over the outer wall, and
reassembling them on the far side, all by torch or lantern light, and while
ducking the occasional magical missile or arrow fred from the inner wall.
The brig itself sits about 200 ft. from the inner wall, but at a location
with minimal fghting. Inside, a single wounded soldier and a handful of
enlisted sailors are trying to take a survey of the prisoners, but between
the cacophony of livestock and the angered shouts of nearly a hundred
Danorans, theyre making slow progress.
Infantryman Sander Wodeham took an arrow through his hand, and
so was assigned here. He says he was told to convince the Danorans to
provide information that might make breaching the inner wall easier.
Plus his superiors want a recommendation whether its safe to release
the Danorans and just keep them under watch, so the actual cells could
be used to house prisoners from the duchesss forces. Wodeham gladly
passes this task of to the PCs.
The Jail Boss.
Nathan Jierre is not here, but if the PCs can get the Danorans talking,
they can learn what happened to him. Getting them talking could be
tough, though.
Danorans think of Duchess Ethelyn of Shale as an infamous enemy,
so when it was clear that the fortress was lost, many soldiers retreated
into the island to prepare a guerilla campaign. Those who stayed behind
were mostly non-combatantscooks, maids, factory workers, and such.
Only one ofcer was taken captive: Lieutenant Hessar Marseine
took shrapnel to his eye and was unconscious when brought to the brig.
The lieutenant has the respect and obedience of the other prisoners,
and he has ordered them not to answer Risuri questions or help in any
way. If the PCs want any information theyre going to have to convince
Marseine frst.
If the PCs start asking questions, the crowd of prisoners yell at them
until fnally Marseine stands and gestures for them to be quiet. He says
they should listen to what the PCs have to say before jumping to conclu-
sions. In truth, though, this is just a polite and reasonable face. Marseine
has a short temper and is willing to fght at the slightest provocation. He
just wants out of the cell frst.
Marseine already knows the basic story of whos attacking whom
and why. He says hed be willing to have his people provide help, on
the condition that any Danoran whos willing be given weapons and
allowed to join the fght against the duchesss forces. He insists on a
show of good faithhe wants a pistol, a musket, and a swordbefore
his people will talk.
Marseines cooperative if the party gives him what he wants, but if
they mock him, question his combat skill, or even just remind him that
hes in the brig because of a dumb accident, hell get snippy, and will
start to take everything in the worst light possible. If not handled gently,
he might threaten a PC, possibly even attack one if provoked. This could
ruin the partys ability to get some useful information.
What they Know.
If the PCs manage to get the prisoners to talk, they report that the
duchesss initial assault used the teleportation circle located inside the
walls of the fort. No one out of the group here knows much about how
magic works, but they were led to understand that the key to activate the
portal was secret. They suspect someone on the inside betrayed them.
They can show the party in person or on a map.
Additionally, Lieutenant Marseine has a key to the roof door of the
central keep, hidden under a pile of hay in his cell. An architect prisoner
knows the route of the sewer system under the keep, and could provide
a map to let PCs sneak into the basement of the central keep, avoiding
the hedge maze labyrinth. The map starts in any of several buildings
in the Outer Fort, and the only obstacle in the way to the central keep
is some stinking ofal and a couple of iron grates. Removing them trig-
gers alarms, but the duchesss forces dont know enough about the fort
to respond to the breach.
The only Danoran offcer on Axis Island taken
captive when the duchess invades, Marseine has a
wretched wound to his eye where he took shrapnel
from an exploding musket. Several generations of his
ancestors died in wars against Risur, and he eagerly
served in the Fourth Yerasol War, excited for the
chance to repay his grudge.
The duchesss assault has caused his anger to
fare back, and hes eager for a chance to spill Risuri
blood. But Danoran tradition demands its soldiers to
be cool and rational, so he seethes and tries to goad
his captors into giving him an excuse for a fght.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
Action. Real-Time.
Asrabey tears the fabric of reality to open a path to the duchess, and the
PCs have a chance to follow him.
As the party is wrapping up their investigation of the prison, read or
paraphrase the following passage, but give them a chance to interrupt if
they want.
A fash of red-orange light illuminates the street from above, and as it streaks
by you hear footsteps sprint across the roof of the brig. You hear shouts of dismay
outside, a gunshot, and then more shouting. A soldier runs in from the street and
yells, The fre monsters coming!
Outside you see an entity leap from the roof and into the street, sprinting for
the inner wall. The fgure resembles a cloud of smoke with a faint humanoid
outline inside illuminated by an orange glow.
A couple of defenders on the wall start fring arrows, and you hear an audible
curse of pain from the smoky entity. He ducks behind a bit of debris down the
street, 80 ft. away from the wall, 120 ft. from the brig. He pulls out an orb that
glows with white light, which pierces even his smoke shroud.
The whole street begins to shake, and the brig with it. Iron nails and iron prison
bars shudder in their mountings, and a few rip violently free. In the street outside,
cobblestones shatter upward and iron spikes burst out of the ground and foat
inches off the ground. Some of the Danorans in the brig cry out in shock as the
space theyre occupying becomes a tangle of jungle. Up on the wall, the duchesss
defenders scream as the wall beneath them turns to mist and they plummet to
their deaths on a lightly-wooded feld.
In an area roughly two-hundred feet across, the landscape that was the fortress
is comingled with a day-lit jungle landscape. Only in places with enough iron does
the original landscape remain, while in a few pockets, typically along the edges,
other landscapes ficker in and outa fery rockslide, a swamp with yellow frogs,
a beige bank of clouds. You notice the edges are shrinking inward slowly, and you
can guess the wildly powerful magic will only last a minute or two.
On the other side of the comingled terrain, you can make out the keep where
you suspect the duchess is, and a huge tangle of brush around it. The smoky
entity discards his orb and runs forward though the temporary gap in the inner
wall. He casually lashes out a whip of fame to kill a defender who tries to get in
his path, and then sprints onward toward the keep.
The light in the orb is slowly fading; the effect will end in a minute or two.
Asrabey has used a rare immurement, a type of magic item that houses
a sliver of another world within it. The items power was magnifed by
the fuctuations of Axis Island. The PCs have a choice between charging
ahead into the center of the fort with minimal back-up, or hanging back
and being cautious. After a few minutes the immurements magic ends,
and the fort returns to its previous shape. The immurements power is
expended, but it would be an interesting curio to keep.
If the PCs wait, they can sneak in through sewers, or wait until the
military surrounds the keep, by which point Asrabey will have taken the
duchess hostage.
If the PCs go in now, emphasize the strangeness of the overlaid world
they run through, which is lit from a sun they cannot see. Moments after
they clear the gap the immurements magic ends, and the fortress wall
snap back into existence. In the sudden darkness, a handful of the duch-
esss soldiers on distant walls fre errant bowshots. The party will want
to make a beeline for the hedge maze only a few dozen feet away. This
is the labyrinth of Gillie Dhu, a fey ally of the duchess. The tops of the
hedges are already on fre from Asrabeys passage.
The Labyrinth of Gillie Dhu
Action/Social. Tactical.
A furious fey tries to thwart the PCs path to the duchess, but he can be
convinced that Asrabeywho just set fre to his hedge maze homeis a
greater threat.
Gillie Dhu CR 2 XP 400
CG Medium unique fey
Init +4; Senses low-light vision; Perception +11
AC 17, touch 14, fat-footed 13 (+4 Dex, +3 natural)
hp 27 (6d6+6)
Fort +5, Ref +9, Will +7
DR 5/cold iron
Weaknesses Flammable Home
Speed 40 ft.
Melee shillelagh+4 (1d6+1, plus see Bonded Shillelagh below)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th)
Constantspeak with plants
3/dayfaerie fre
1/dayentangle (DC 15)
Str 10, Dex 19, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 18
Base Atk +3; CMB +7; CMD 17
Feats Agile Maneuvers, Great Fortitude, Stealthy
Skills Climb +9, Craft (sculpture) +11, Escape Artist +15, Handle Animal +10,
Knowledge (nature) +11, Perception +11, Stealth +15, Survival +8;
Languages Common, Elven, Sylvan; speak with plants
SQ hedge meld
Other Gear shillelagh
Special Abilities
Hedge Meld (Su) Gillie Dhu can move into and through his hedges, similar to how the
spell meld into stone functions. While inside a hedge he can be attacked and gains
no cover or concealment from the hedge.
Flammable Home (Su) Gillie Dhu is mystically bonded to his hedge maze. Whenever
Gillie Dhu starts his turn, he takes 1 point of fre damage for each 5-ft. square of the
hedge in the labyrinth that is on fre. At the end of Gillie Dhus turn, every square
of burning hedge adjacent to him burns up in a sudden fash and becomes clear
Bonded Shillelagh (Su) When Gillie Dhu hits a creature with his shillelagh, he makes
a follow-up roll (1d20+7 vs. the targets CMD). If he hits, he pushes the target 10 ft.
He can even push creatures through hedges, which part briefy for the passage then
magically seal themselves to strand the victim. Gillie Dhus shillelagh functions as
just a normal club in the hands of anyone else.
When Asrabey reached the hedge, he ran across it, his footsteps ignit-
ing a few spots. If the PCs are in hot pursuit of the high elf, when they
arrive here they spot Gillie Dhu beating his club at a burning hedge at
the edge of his labyrinth. The fre goes out and the bit of hedge withers
to ash, opening up a path into the maze.
When Gillie Dhu spots the PCs he disappears into the maze, shouting,
Your faming friend may have gotten by me, but I shall not let you pass!
None shall harm Lady Ethelyn!
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
Hedges: Hedges are normally impassible, and they provide conceal-
ment and superior cover to those on the opposite side. A character can
try to enter a hedges space, which requires 20 ft. of movement and an
Escape Artist check (DC 15).
Hedges are 8 ft. tall and can be climbed (Strength DC 12). The top of
a hedge is difcult terrain, and moving across it requires an Acrobatics
check (DC 15) to avoid falling prone.
Burning Brush: If a spell or attack deals 1 or more fre point of dam-
age, any hedge spaces in the area catch fre. A single-target attack can
also be aimed at a 5-ft. square of the hedge, and if it does 1 point of fre
damage, the hedge square catches fre. A hedge that catches fre burns
slowly; it might go out by itself or spread over the course of several min-
utes, but for the duration of the encounter the hedge simply continues to
burn on its own unless someone puts out the fres.
Because each square of burning brush does damage to him, usually Gil-
lie Dhu will disengage from the PCs and rush to put out fres on his turn.
He assumes hell have time to get back to the party before they can navigate
the maze. If a PC is creating a lot of fre, though, hell focus his attacks on
that character. Even if the PCs themselves have no fre attacks, their allied
soldiers each have fasks of alchemist fre. Clever PCs can manage to keep
Gillie Dhu busy putting out fres until they get to the central keep.
Negotiating: Gillie Dhu gladly talks with the PCs during combat,
calling them scalawags and fools for doing the dirty work for a bunch
of Danorans. He assumes Asrabey came with the party and the feet. If
the PCs suggest that the high elf means to kill the duchess, and they just
want to take her prisoner, a hard (DC 20) Diplomacy check can convince
him to stand down and let them into the keep.
The Trio
Social. Real-Time.
The party must confront the deadly Asrabey before he executes the duch-
ess and abducts Nathan Jierre.
At the center of the hedge maze sits the tower keep, 60 ft. tall. It con-
sists of three foors. The frst two contain a command center, arrow slits
around the outer walls, and quarters, with basement supply rooms to
hold out in a siege. Cramped sewer tunnels lead into the basement.
The third foor, 20 ft. above ground level, houses a library including
maps of the island and the night sky, as well as a work room for scholars.
The top foor, which has a 40-ft. high ceiling, houses a telescope ob-
servatory, which Nathan Jierre and other astronomers used to track the
interactions between planetary or stellar orbits and magical fuctuations
on the island.
In the observatory, a metal staircase leads to a door that provides access
to the crenellated roof, where musketeers could harass any approaching
enemies, though the duchess doesnt have enough forces to put troops
there. The main bulk of the roof is a mechanically-operated hatch. Con-
trols in the observatory can manipulate the hatch to provide a broad view
of the night sky. The door and hatch are both locked from the inside.
The duchess has been directing the battle from the keep, and her non-
combatant advisors and alliesincluding Nathan Jierrefed to the
observatory when Asrabey attacked. The high elf managed to breach
the keeps defenses and kill the duchesss guards. If the PCs are in pur-
suit, moments before they arrive he defeats the duchess in battle, and
prepares to execute her.
Getting In. If the PCs reach the front door, they fnd it ajar and burn-
ing, having been blasted open from within by Asrabey. If they took the
sewer route, they emerge in the basement and fnd the lower level smol-
dering. The bodies of dozens of soldiers lie about slashed and charred,
and as the party ascends the stairs it should be clear that Asrabey is far
more powerful than them.
Alternately, the PCs might climb the outer wall of the tower and enter
through the roof door, using a key provided by Lieutenant Marseine.
Eavesdropping. If the PCs reach the top foor after pursuing Asrabey,
they hear Asrabey, the duchess, and Nathan Jierre arguing in the obser-
vatory chamber. A few of the duchesss advisors lie nearby, killed only
moments earlier, as well as a dozen soldiers who had been protecting the
roof. The duchess sits on the ground, holding a hand over her stomach,
which is blackened and bloody. The bodies of slain summoned wolves
are slowly fading away. Nathan Jierre cowers on the far side of the cham-
ber, trying to hide behind an orrery.
Asrabey circles the duchess, limping slightly. Hes covered in small
cuts and bruises, and is managing to stay standing despite a handful of
arrow and bullet wounds across his legs and arms. His wooden, lion-
faced shield bears fresh blood on its fangs, and his faming sword fares
whenever he wants to emphasize a word or sentence. The smoke shroud
does not hang around him.
Read or paraphrase the following, but give the PCs a chance to inter-
rupt at any time. If the party decided to wait for the army to surround
the keep, they can hear the details of this conversation if anyone man-
ages to survive.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
Duchess: Asrabey, dont do anything youll regret.
Asrabey: Save your pleading breath for prayer.
Duchess: If you have come for the reason I suspect, you should pray with
me as well. You are a murderer, Asrabey. Did I so displease the Court that you
needed to slaughter a hundred to reach me?
Asrabey: To forestall war, yes! Your people must not think we ally with a
kingslayer. And worse, he sneers at the tiefing, one who consorts with devils.
Tiefing: Um, perhaps reason is bit much to expect at this time, but can we
talk about this? Asrabey ficks his sword, which extends out to a faming whip and
cracks the tiefing across his face, then snaps back to a longsword.
Asrabey: You are lucky your cursed fesh will not burn. But I have other ways
to make you suffer. To the duchess he says, Prepare yourself, and you may die
with dignity.
Duchess: Wait! My brother wont execute his own blood, and so long as I live
I can still oppose him. There are more important matters than-
Asrabey: You struck the frst blow. Aodhan was a soldier, as I am, and
forgiveness does not come easily to our kind. Hell never listen to you, not in the
short years he has left. Already you are vilifed. You promised your land would
pull away from these fends, would return to the old ways, yet you have fallen in
with them yourself.
Duchess: You dont understand. Nathan is on our side. Theres a threat to
Risur and the Unseen. I told the Court as much-
Asrabey: Enough. Ethelyn, please do not make me watch you beg.
Duchess: She glares. Asrabey Varal, your closed mind has doomed us all.
She sits up straight despite her stomach wound. Very well. Finish it.
Tiefing: Wait a minute, Varal? Are you kin to a Kasvarina Varal?
The high elf stops before he has managed to raise his sword for a killing blow.
He turns away from the duchess, grabs the tiefing by his vest, and leans close.
High Elf: How do you know Kasvarina?
Tiefing: Um, what? She she was here, months ago! She was on the arm of
a Crisillyiri man. In the company of my cousin. They took a tour of the mines. They
left a few days later. II think she was the one who crafted the portal ring.
Duchess: Asrabey, Im trying to tell you, hes an ally. Hes seen things, and
were trying to fnd out what it all means. I think Danor means to destroy both
our nations. My brother wouldnt listen, even the Court ignored me, but you have
to believe me. Asrabey considers this for a long moment. Then he heads for the
double doors to check his escape route.
If the PCs arent here, Asrabey sees the battle outside and realizes that
getting Nathan Jierre of the island will be difcult, so he changes plans
and prepares a hostage situation. But if the PCs are here, Asrabey no-
tices them. If they dont make the frst move, hell demand they leave or
else hell kill the duchess.
Hostage Situation. If Asrabey gets a chance to make demands, he
says he intends to leave this island with the tiefing. First, he wants a
message delivered to King Aodhan, explaining that the Unseen Court
did not endorse the duchesss actions, and that they desire her execution
as a traitor. Second, he wants a ship prepared with an unarmed skeleton
crew. They will sail him to the Risuri mainland, at which point he will let
them go. He will will hand the duchess over once he boards this ship.
He claims, falsely, that he will not harm her. The whole plan is a ruse,
though. He actually intends to use the duchess as a human shield until
he and Nathan Jierre can reach the outer fort. Then he will slit her throat,
heave Nathan over his shoulder, and run for the teleportation circle.
Once there, he only needs about a minute to complete his spell, which
will teleport him to an old forest deep in the Risuri wetlands.
Brinksmanship. Asrabey is hesitant to make the frst move, and he
hopes to intimidate the party into leaving because hes not sure he has
the strength left to take them in a fght. The party might likewise try to
cow him into backing down.
The high elf is willing to talk for a few minutes to gauge the partys
intentions and willingness to risk their lives. The duchesswho recog-
nizes them from the Coaltonguetries to break in and explain why she
tried to kill her brother. She tells of her vision (see page 1), but Asrabey
cuts her of soon after that. Hes not interested in letting his hostages talk,
and will try to cow the party into leaving.
Combat. If the party refuses to leave or raises weapons to fght, As-
rabey will try to disable them all. The duchess is at 0 hit points and has
no spells remaining for the day, but shes stable. She wont die from her
wounds, but she cant fght unless a PC can grant her healing. Nathan
Jierre is a non-combatant.
Asrabey Varal CR 15 XP 38,400 (currently 1,000)
Male elf fghter 15
CN Medium Humanoid (elf)
Init +8; Senses low-light vision; Perception +13
AC 35, touch 16, fat-footed 31 (+12 armor, +2 defection, +4 Dex, +2 natural, +5 shield)
hp 162 (15d10+75), currently 1
Fort +12, Ref +9, Will +8; +2 vs. enchantments, +4 vs. fear
Defensive Abilities bravery +4
Speed 30 ft.
Melee Vekeshi Blade +28/+23/+18 (1d8+14 /1720 plus 1d6 fre)
Special Attacks weapon training (heavy blades +3, light blades +2, thrown +1)
Str 22, Dex 19, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +15; CMB +21; CMD 37
Feats Cleave, Critical Focus, Great Cleave, Greater Vital Strike, Improved Critical
(longsword), Improved Initiative, Improved Iron Will, Improved Vital Strike, Iron
Will, Power Attack, Step Up, Toughness, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (longsword),
Weapon Specialization (longsword)
Skills Acrobatics +12, Climb +17, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (nature) +6, Perception
+13, Sense Motive +6, Swim +17; Racial Modifers +2 Perception, +2 Spellcraft
identify magic item properties
SQ armor training 4, elven magic, weapon familiarity
Languages Common, Elven
Other Gear amulet of natural armor +2, belt of physical perfection +4, cloak of smoke,
raiment of defense, lion shield, slippers of spider climbing
Cousin of Lya Jierre and nephew of Danors sovereign,
Nathan avoided politics and pursued science. After
years studying theories of magic and astronomy, he
came to Axis Island to understand how the two are
tied together. His attention easily drifts to cerebral
topics, and so people often have to repeat things to
him. But he has a knack for seeing what most people
miss, and his enthusiasm for understanding complex
interactions helps him unearth things that others are
interested in hiding. Once he realized his people
were building new weapons, he went to the duchess,
hoping to avoid another war. He did not expect the
duchess to attack. Now he realizes hes a traitor, and is
afraid what will happen when his people fnd out.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
Duchess Ethelyn of Shale CR 9 XP 6400
Female human sorcerer 10
CN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +6; Senses Perception +0
AC 13, touch 13, fat-footed 10 (+2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 47 (10d6+10)
Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +9
Speed 30 ft.
Bloodline Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +14)
7/daylaughing touch
10 rounds/dayfeeting glance
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 10th; concentration +14)
5th (3/day)teleport
4th (6/day)fear, hallucinatory terrain, poison
3rd (7/day)deep slumber, haste, lightning bolt, nondetection
2nd (7/day)cats grace, eagles splendor, foxs cunning, hideous laughter, mirror
1st (7/day)entangle, expeditious retreat, feather fall, magic missile, ray of
enfeeblement, sleep
0 (at will)detect magic, detect poison, fare, light, mage hand, mending, message,
read magic, resistance
Bloodline Fey
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 11, Cha 19
Base Atk +5; CMB +4; CMD 17
Feats Dodge, Empower Spell, Eschew Materials, Improved Counterspell, Improved
Initiative, Iron Will, Leadership, Quicken Spell
Skills Bluff +12, Diplomacy +14, Handle Animal +9, Heal +5, Knowledge (history) +6,
Knowledge (nature) +9, Knowledge (nobility) +6, Knowledge (planes) +6, Spellcraft +9
SQ bloodline arcana, 10 rounds/dayfeeting glance, woodland stride
Languages Common, Sylvan
Fight. Asrabey charges into the midst of the PCs and tries to take
them out as quickly as possible. Realizing that killing the famed in-
vestigators who saved King Aodhan might provoke further unwanted
attention towards the Unseen Court, Asrabey uses only non-lethal at-
tacks on the PCs.
Negotiation and Takedown. Truly bold PCs might convince Asra-
bey to leave without a fght. Even if the PCs convince him he cant win
a fght, he at frst demands to leave them the duchess, while they give
him the tiefing. The party had better be very imposing to get him to
leave and take nothing back. He defnitely refuses to surrender, though
he could be taken alive after a fght.
The ceiling here rises an impressive 40 ft. high. A 10-ft. high platform
dominates the room, with a 20-ft. high telescope mounted atop it, so
leaving a 10-ft. space to a hatch, which opens up to allow viewing of the
night sky. A control panel at the base of the telescope can be activated as
a minor action to open the hatch to the roof. The panel can also adjust
the aim of the telescope.
Someone inclined to climb the telescope can fnd easy handholds
(Climb DC 8), though not much space to stand or fght.
Someone on top of the telescope, or with a rope (or a whip, like As-
rabeys sword), can spend a standard action and make a Strength check
(DC 12) to knock the huge object of its mount, which can crush those
nearby. Those in the way must make a DC 13 Refex Save or take 2d8
damage on a hit, half damage on a miss.
A few bits of furniture are covered in charts and old plates of food.
Doors in the north corners lead to the hydraulic mechanisms that move
the roof hatch, as well as rain cisterns.
A catwalk staircase in the southwest corner provides roof access,
though the door at the top of the stairs is locked from the outside (Disable
Device DC 20). The roof itself has crenellations, but all the defenders
who had been there rushed down and were cut down by Asrabey.
High Level Equipment.
Below are the listed rules for all equipment wielded by the Dreadnought
Asrabey Varal. Take note that the equipment presented here is meant for
GM reference only, and PCs should not be expected to acquire this gear
under any circumstance, as it far exceeds their current power level. On
the same note, statistics are presented here for Duchess Ethelyn, but she
is left unequipped. GMs can assume she trusted her most precious items
to minions, or GMs can craft their own item set for the noblewoman as
potential extra rewards for completing the adventure.
Vekeshi Blade
Normally a +3 faming longsword, the Vekeshi Blade wielded by Asrabey
Varal is a potent artifact of the Unseen Court. The wielder of the Vekeshi
Blade can transform the weapon into a whip-like form that has 15-ft. reach
and can be used to make trip attacks, but which still deals damage as a
longsword. The blade shifts and reverts as a free action at the wielders
Lion Shield
A specially crafted +3 heavy wooden shield, the Lion Shield can also
be loosed to attack on its own. It fghts for 4 rounds using the base attack
bonus of the one who loosed it and then drops. For combat purposes,
the Lion Shield is treated as having a 2d6 damage bite attack with the
Grab special rule (CMB equals the CMB of the wielder). While attacking,
it cannot make attacks of opportunity, and the person who activated it is
not considered as having the shield equipped. The shield is considered
wielded or attended by the creature for all maneuvers and effects that
target items. While attacking, the shield shares the same space as the
activating character and can attack adjacent foes. The shield accompanies
the person who activated it everywhere, whether she moves by physical
or magical means. If the wielder who loosed it has an unoccupied hand,
she can grasp it while it is attacking on its own as a free action; when so
retrieved, the shield cant dance (attack on its own) again for 4 rounds.
Cloak of Smoke
An ornate cloak from the lands of the Unseen Court, this cloak flls the
air around the wearer with a constant roil of smoke, causing enemies to
take a 20% miss chance due to concealment. The wearer can see through
the smoke without trouble, and can dismiss or invoke the smoke as a free
action. In addition the wearer receives a +2 defection bonus to AC.
Glamered Plate
Woven of a distilled essence made from stories of warriors dodging
deadly blows, this cloth tunic protects its wearer as well as +3 full plate,
but does not hinder his movements or skills.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
Social. Montage.
On behalf of the victorious forces, the PCs turn control of Axis Island
back to Danor.
After resolving the situation with Asrabey, the party might have pris-
onersor bodiesto take back to Risur. The navy came prepared to
take spellcasters into custody, and can slap mage cufs (see the Players
Guide) on the duchess or Asrabey if needed. Nathan Jierre cooperates,
though he enthusiastically petitions the PCs to guarantee him passage to
Risur, especially if he learns that his cousin Lya is coming.
With fairly limited time left before the island must be handed over,
the party might search for clues of what was going on. It should be clear
that Danor was experimenting here with merging magic and industry,
and that theyre on track to build military shipyards and gunworks. The
excavations of ancient ruins might raise some suspicions, but there is no
evidence of a direct, immediate threat to Risur.
Nathans Knowledge.
Either by speaking with Nathan Jierre, or making a few
Knowledge(Arcana or Nature) checks in the observatory, the party learns
that the Danorans were interested in tracking an unusual interaction of
magic and planetary movement. While the Skyseers and others long ago
noted how the planets afect major types of elemental magic, Nathan was
tasked with determining what magic is afected by the much more dis-
tant stars.
It could be coincidence, but the star he has been observing most thor-
oughly is a bright blue one, the same color as the sun the PCs witnessed
when reality fickered earlier. He also has, in a glass case, a dissected frog
from that same strange place, pinned down with gold needles.
The military grabs the duchesss forces, loads its people on ships, and
departs. Eventually only the Impossible remains behind. Near sunset, a
steam-powered Danoran warship named Lux Profectusquesquatter
and slower than the Coaltongue, but sturdier for open seas travelcoasts
into the Axis Fortress harbor. Lya Jierre disembarks, fanked by a pair
of unusual bodyguards.
Lyas Retinue.
The frst, Rush, is a snide half-elf who carries a pair of elaborately
decorated platinum rods, slotted into holsters at his hips. Amid images
of roiling clouds and celestial spheres, two golden buttons stand out by
each rods gripping end. The mans forearms are massively muscled.
The second, a hulking half-deaf half-orc named Merton, wears a steel
helmet with unusually thick protection over his ears, but otherwise has
no armor. He holds a thickly-wrapped object, like an overlong walking
staf, twice as thick at the top as where he holds it. Layers of white cash-
mere conceal the objects head.
These two warriors accompany Lya most everywhere she goes, and
when the party fnally gets an opportunity to face them in combat in a
later adventure, they will discover that Rush fghts with a pair of special-
ly-designed extensible immovable rods, while Merton carries a polearm
capped with an adjustable and powerful sonic tine, like a giant tuning
fork. Lya Jierre, of course, has an arcano-technological vorpal rapier.
When Lya sees the party she smiles and asks if she can take back her
countrys island. Shed like to know what happened, especially to her
cousin, but frst she has to go through a few formalities. She produces
a pair of matching documents, minor treaties that state simply, without
any legalese or jargon that Risur condemns the duchesss attack on the
island and will not press a claim to its ownership on account of this
particular military event. The PCs are empowered to sign on behalf
of Risur.
Lya is genuinely thankful the party has helped avert a crisis, and even
if they have bad news about her cousin, she remains positive. She asks
that the party leave soon, because not all of her people are as fond of
Risur as she is.
But before the party leaves, fnd some way to work into the conversa-
tion that Lya Jierre is planning to marry King Aodhan if the negotiations
over the next year go well. She might mention (if Nathan is headed to
Risur) that she hopes shell see him before the wedding; or she might
simply invite the PCs by way of saying thanks.
With that, theres nothing left to do but board the Impossible and sail
back to Risur. The mission is accomplished, but a mystery is just starting
to reveal itself.
The Island at the Axis of the World Act Three: Under the Wheel of Stars
By the end of this adventure, the party should have a clear sense of
the relationships among Risur, Danor, and the Unseen Court. Theyve
met several future power players, including King Aodhan and Lya Jierre,
and they should realize that Danor is up to something on Axis Island,
but that they arent equipped to fnd out what yet. And by fnding them-
selves in the right place at the right time (more than one time, already),
theyve had a chance to shape the fate of their nation.
The next adventure in the Zeitgeist adventure path, The Dying
Skyseer, keeps the action and mystery entirely in the city of Flint, as a
high-profle murder draws the party into an investigation of foreign doc-
tors, fey terrorists, local corruption, and soul-stealing dark magic from
the citys past. Before playing Adventure Two, you and your players
should also review Section Three of the Players Guide for important
background information about the city of Flint. In order to prepare for
their coming trials, each PC should advance one level, bringing them up
to 2nd level.
NPC Quick Reference
for GMs.
Thames Grimsley. Grizzled sailor. Leads docker union. Dislikes police.
Oratorical, theatrical speech patterns. Pause for dramatic effect a lot.
Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft. Partys boss. Chews tobacco.
Cane. Spits. Good-natured.
Principal Minister Harkover Lee. Kings magical advisor/bodyguard.
Straight-backed. Beran accent (sort of Mexican or Spanish).
Geoff Massarde. Tiefing engineer. Drinks, but low-tolerance. Airy
voice. Danoran accent (sort of French). Dislikes Danor.
Captain Rutger Smith. Bold. Idealistic. Loves philosophy. Smokes
Duchess Ethelyn of Shale. Kings sister. Considers words before
speaking. Old-fashioned. Fondly recalls time before she was rich and
Sokana Rell . Duchesss handmaiden. High elf disguised as elf. Quiet.
Tries to avoid attention. Despises Danorans.
Flint City Governor Roland Stanfeld. Aasimar. Constant expression
of contented optimism. Perfect politicians smile. Old war wound in his
lower back.
King Aodhan. Cool-headed. Defects trouble rather than fght. Healthy
despite being 70. Physically feels the emotions of nearby fey.
Minister of Outsiders Lya Jierre. Tiefing martial scientist. Ambitious.
Haughty but friendly. Progressive. Wants peace. Arcano-technological
vorpal rapier.
Mine Foreman Nicolas Dupiers. Paranoid. Golden icons of earth and
shadow. Pistol.
Lieutenant Hessar Marseine. Nasty eye wound. Looking for a fght.
Reasonable if youre polite to him.
Nathan Jierre. Tiefing astronomer. Observant but short-sighted.
Wants peace, but didnt realize duchess wanted war. Afraid his people
will brand him a traitor.
Asrabey Varal. High elf warrior of unmatched prowess. Flaming sword.
Animated lion shield. Cloak of smoke. Despises Danorans. Sent to
execute duchess.
Prisoners, Punishments,
and Pardons.
A few months pass between this adventure and the next, The Dying
Skyseer. In that time, the king gets his house mostly in order, though some
protest groups are emboldened and treat the duchess as a hero, especially
if she died. If she survived, a public ritual strips her of her title, leaving her
with only weak magical powers. Now just Ethelyn, shes imprisoned in the
Bridge Tower in Slate.
Nathan Jierre, if the PCs let him go to Risur, becomes a guest of a minor
noble in Flint, but his movements are almost as limited as the duchesss. If
the Danorans get him, he eventually fees a trial for treason and fnds his
way to Risur anyway.
The PCs get a very stern talking to if they killed Asrabey, because he was
technically a diplomat of the Unseen Court, but circumstances justify their
actions. If he survives, he is soon allowed to return to the Dreaming with
no consequences. His sword, shield, cloak, and most of his lesser items are
returned to him or given to his allies, along with his body, if he died.
The Island at the Axis of the World Player Handout
Assistant Chief Inspector Stover
Delft. A local Flinter in his early
40s, Delft is your direct superior.
Generally good-natured to his sub-
ordinates, he has a penchant for
grousing about people behind their
backs. A much better manager than
investigator, Delft has advanced
this far in the Constabulary by fnd-
ing good agents, supporting them
on difcult missions, and sharing the accolades from their successes.
Delft chews tobacco, and thinks he looks charming if he grins while
sucking on tobacco juices. He walks with a cane because a mimic tore a
chunk out of his leg ffteen years ago. He has a habit of poking inanimate
objects with the cane before he gets too close to them, and spitting on
them when he wants to be extra sure.
Principal Minister Harkover Lee.
Perhaps the most powerful mage
in Risur, Lee acts as King Aod-
hans bodyguard and chief of staf.
Straight-backed and virile despite
being in his 60s, Lee has a slight
Ber-tinged accent, and was said to
be quite the ladykiller in his youth.
He always dresses in reds and golds
and carries a solid gold wizards
orb tucked into his robes. He never eats or drinks in public.
Geof Massarde. A 40-something
tiefing with an airy voice and a
fondness for wine that outmatches
his ability to handle his alcohol,
Massarde is one of a handful of
Danoran tiefings working for the
Risuri military to help construct
warships and other weapons. He
has few kind words for his home-
land. He is fascinated with ice, and
carries a wand which can chill small objects with a touch. Mostly he just
uses it as a novelty to cool beverages.
Captain Rutger Smith. Captain of
the R.N.S. Impossible, one of the
RHCs vessels. Smith earned his
frst command fve years ago. Now
37, he has never led his ship into
battle. That, combined with his
fondness for the Malice-era philo-
sophical writings of the pacifst
monk William Miller, has made
him the target of mockery by more
established naval ofcers.
Duchess Ethelyn of Shale. The
kings sister, Duchess Ethelyn was
a commoner before earning her title
in the Third Yerasol War. She dis-
likes industry and leads a coalition
of powerful individuals with strong
ties to the Unseen Court. She wears
extravagant diamond cluster ear-
rings representing the stars of the
night sky to show her allegiance
to the old ways. Accounts tell of her
possessing many diferent types of magic, though many of these could
be exaggerated.
Flint City Governor Roland Stan-
feld. Stanfeld witnessed the fall of
the high elf goddess Srasama fve
hundred years ago and died soon
thereafter in the chaos of Elfaivars
fall. But he reincarnated, and has
for centuries served as Flints gov-
King Aodhan. Now in his 70s, the
current king of Risur looks rather
unassuming, and was a common
warrior before the previous king
chose him as a successor after the
Third Yerasol War. He prefers to
resolve disputes by being cool-
headed and rationally persuading
those who will listen to his side.
Despite all this, though, he trains
regularly to keep his stamina and swordplay robust, and the rites of rul-
ership grant him daunting magical powers.
Dramatis Personae.
The Island at the Axis of the World Player Handout
On the Sea Wall.
Cannot be barricaded.
Outside Lighthouse.
Can have up to 20 points of barricades.
Inside Lighthouse.
Can have up to 10 points of barricades. PCs cant enter or leave the
area if there are more than 5 points of barricades.
Conducting the Encounter.
Timeline. Each round is one minute. Allies arrive in round ten, and if
the sea gate is open, the PCs win. Each round, frst all the PCs act, then
all enemies act. Enemies that are destroyed still act and are removed at the
end of the round. PCs reduced to 0 HP or less automatically stabilize.
Tracking Locations. Place PC minis in the appropriate area when-
ever they move. Use coins or dice to keep track of how many enemies
are in each area.
PC Turn. PCs move to an area, then take one action. Suggested ac-
tions include:
Assemble Barricade. Strength or Knowledge (Engineering) DC 15.
Create 3 points of barricade inside lighthouse, or 2 points outside light-
house. On a failed check, create 1 point. Area must have no enemies.
Battle. No check or attack roll required. Destroy 1 enemy, or 2 if clever
or daring.
Brace. Strength or Constitution DC 10. Barricade in your area resists
frst 2 points of enemy action this turn.
Set Trap or Ward. Craft (Trapmaking), Disable Device, or Spellcraft
DC 15. When enemies enter this area, destroy 1. The trap is expended.
Stall. Diplomacy or Intimidate DC 15. Enemies dont advance this
turn. +2 DC per round.
PCs can also cast spells or use potions/scrolls to heal or prevent dam-
age without having to spend extra actions, but each such efort incurs 1
penalty to skill check for that turn.
Enemy Turn. Enemies move as far as they can toward the lighthouse
interior. They stop when they reach a location with a PC, trap, or ward.
If there are any barricades in an area, they stop before entering that area.
Then for each enemy, act in the following order.
Remove 1 point of barricade from an adjacent area until there are no
adjacent barricades.
Deal 2 damage to a PC that shares the area with the enemy. PCs can
choose who among them take the damage.
Deal 1 damage to a PC in another area.
Hold the Lighthouse.
The Island at the Axis of the World Player Handout
The Assault.
Allied Soldier CR
/3 XP 135 each
Male human warrior 1
LN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception 1
AC 16, touch 11, fat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +1 shield)
hp 12 each (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +1, Will 1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee longsword +1 (1d8 / 1920)
Ranged light crossbow +2 (1d8 / 1920)
Str 11, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Skills Climb +1, Ride +2, Stealth 1
Languages Common
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds, alchemists fre (3); Other Gear chain shirt,
buckler, longsword, light crossbow
Allied Soldier CR
/3 XP 135 each
Male human warrior 1
LN Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +1; Senses Perception 1
AC 16, touch 11, fat-footed 15 (+4 armor, +1 Dex, +1 shield)
hp 12 each (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +1, Will 1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee longsword +1 (1d8 / 1920)
Ranged light crossbow +2 (1d8 / 1920)
Str 11, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Skills Climb +1, Ride +2, Stealth 1
Languages Common
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds, alchemists fre (3); Other Gear chain shirt,
buckler, longsword, light crossbow
Allied Solder (Alternate Version)
While your allied soldier is alive, you gain the following abilities:
Allied Soldier Defense (Ex) Your allied soldier is on guard, providing warnings and a
handy shield. You gain a +2 bonus to AC and to saving throws.
If you are knocked unconscious, the allied soldier stabilizes and protects you.
You can also have your allied soldier suffer the effect of an attack in your place.
The attack does nothing to you, but your allied soldier is incapacitated until he
can get a few minutes to rest and heal out of combat. While your allied soldier is
incapacitated, you lose the Allied Soldier Offense ability and the AC bonus and
stabilization options of this ability. If you have your soldier suffer the effect of an
attack a second time in the same combat, he is killed, and you lose this ability.
Allied Soldier Offense (Ex) Your allied soldier assists you when you attack. You gain
a +2 bonus to your melee attack rolls. Once per combat, you can have your allied
soldier hurl a fask of alchemists fre (+2 ranged touch attack). The soldier makes no
other attacks.
Allied Soldier (Alternate Version)
While your allied soldier is alive, you gain the following abilities:
Allied Soldier Defense (Ex) Your allied soldier is on guard, providing warnings and a
handy shield. You gain a +2 bonus to AC and to saving throws.
If you are knocked unconscious, the allied soldier stabilizes and protects you.
You can also have your allied soldier suffer the effect of an attack in your place.
The attack does nothing to you, but your allied soldier is incapacitated until he
can get a few minutes to rest and heal out of combat. While your allied soldier is
incapacitated, you lose the Allied Soldier Offense ability and the AC bonus and
stabilization options of this ability. If you have your soldier suffer the effect of an
attack a second time in the same combat, he is killed, and you lose this ability.
Allied Soldier Offense (Ex) Your allied soldier assists you when you attack. You gain
a +2 bonus to your melee attack rolls. Once per combat, you can have your allied
soldier hurl a fask of alchemists fre (+2 ranged touch attack). The soldier makes no
other attacks.
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
Main Deck.
Gun Deck.
Berth Deck.
Engine Deck.
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World GM Maps
The Island at the Axis of the World Open Game License 1.0a
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Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000,
Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
System Reference Document. Copyright 2000,
Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan
Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on
material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
Pathfnder RPG Core Rulebook. Copyright 2009,
Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn,
based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte
Cook, and Skip Williams.
The Book of Experimental Might. Copyright 2008,
Monte J. Cook. All rights reserved.
Tome of Horrors. Copyright 2002, Necromancer
Games, Inc.; Authors: Scott Greene, with
Clark Peterson, Erica Balsley, Kevin Baase,
Casey Christofferson, Lance Hawvermale,
Travis Hawvermale, Patrick Lawinger, and Bill
Webb; Based on original content from TSR.
Lesser Shadow from Tome of Horrors Complete,
Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc.,
published and distributed by Frog God
Games; Authors Scott Greene and Clark
ZEITGEIST Players Guide. Copyright 2011, EN
Publishing; Author: Ryan Nock.
ZEITGEIST Campaign Guide. Copyright 2011, EN
Publishing; Author: Ryan Nock.
Island at the Axis of the World. Copyright 2011,
EN Publishing; Author: Ryan Nock.